What is the best solution to get rid of your lower back pain?
Well let’s think about this logically. See a lot of people nowadays are talking about back pain as if it were a disease or condition in itself. Often they claim to have a cure for lower back pain.
Back pain, or any pain for that matter, is not a condition, it’s a symptom of the condition. So by removing or reducing the symptom does not mean you have removed the cause.
The way to remove the cause is to create a healthy environment in which health can thrive. Optimal healing allows the body to heal itself.
There are a number of things in the body that could cause lower back pain. The most common is the musculoskeletal system (i.e. the muscles, joints, nerves, ligaments and tendons).
Organs can also cause pain in the area.
One of the first things that a professional chiropractor or osteopath will do is conduct a detailed case history. This helps find out the story of how the patient got to this point. It also gives some detailed information about the nature of the symptoms, which all add up to providing valuable clues into why these symptoms have started.
If suitable,then the patient may require some special clinical tests to determine what specific parts of the body are causing the symptoms (notice how we’re still only talking about symptoms, not the condition yet).
It’s also extremely important to consider WHY those tissues have been affected in that way. It may be that there are some lifestyle choices that patients have made, which has gradually led them to this point.
That is the only way you can naturally create optimal function in the body, allowing it to heal itself and achieving true health. This is my definition of health: “The body’s ability to heal”.
The better the body can heal, the better it can be in it’s optimal function.
If you are suffering with lower back pain when bending there are a number of different structures that we need to be looking at, addressing and potentially be concerned about too.
When we look at a typical spine, it is made up of bones called vertebrae. In the lower back (lumbar spine) there are a total of 5 vertebrae.
The bumps on the back are called spinous processes. These are what you can see or feel when you run you hand down the back. Near these spinous processes are the joints which allow the vertebrae to articulate with each other. These joints are called facets.
In between the vertebrae are the spinal discs. We want these to be nice and spongy to allow for efficient shock absorption from any movements of activity.
When bending the lower back, these discs can get more compressed, which can cause them to bulge if there is already a problem there. This bulge can potentially pinch the nerves as they are exiting the spine.
Pain can also be caused by the stretching of the capsule around the facets if bending forwards. These facet joints can get inflamed, and if they get inflamed to the point where they start pinching on nerves they can also add to pain.
Softer structures in the area such as ligaments and muscles can get stretched when bending. If they are tight due to an injury or poor posture the pain may be an indication of requiring some guided lifestyle changes.
So as you can see there is not an easy fix such as performing a stretch or sitting a certain way to “cure back pain”. As I always say, pain is a symptom indicating that there is a problem. It’s the cause that needs to be addressed to remove it.
Most people tend to have a scoliosis. So why is no one talking or doing anything about it except me?
A scoliosis is a sideways curvature in the spine. The degree of curvature depends on each individual and how much it is affecting their function. You can find this out by visiting a professional, such as a chiropractor or an osteopath.
Not a single one of the patients that have visited my clinic have ever had a perfectly straight spine – irrespective of their symptoms.
If you have ever suffered from constipation you will know how uncomfortable it can be. Especially if it has been there for a long time, it can be very horrible and potentially dangerous for your health too.
Things that can help are to have a high fibre diet or staying hydrated to help move the contents of your bowels more efficiently.
However we have to also consider mechanical challenges too.
If you are going on a ski trip, you need to make sure that you do this exercise to prepare for the break but also for when you are out on the slopes.
When skiing you have to wear these chunky ski boots. The muscles that operate your foot and ankle do not get used very much during skiing due to the stability that is provided by the ski boots. This means that those muscles may waste and weaken, which increases the risk of injury to the area.
To help counter this muscle wasting, stand on one leg, and gradually increase the time you spend standing like this. Swap sides so both legs can get trained up. Ideally you want to start this a few weeks before your ski trip and continue whilst enjoying the vacation.
This will activate or reactivate those muscles to maintain their strength and function.
Have you noticed that your body might click if you move a certain way, ankles might click, or the wrists might click.
See the body does click in different ways for different reasons. The most common reason for clicking if it’s been from your movement is a tendon flicking over a bone. A tendon is a piece of connective tissue that connects a muscle belly to a bone so that it can control movement of the joint.
If the muscle fibres are tight due to poor posture, poor stretching habits or lifestyle choices, the tendons become more taut. This can lead the the tendon flicks over a bit of bone, creating that clicking sensation.
The most common area I have found this to be, is in the shoulder area. There are a lot of muscles around the shoulder girdle which are prone to become tight and causing such tendons to click or flick.
If it happens for a short while, it is not a problem. However if it continues to happen for a few days, weeks, months or even years doing movements where you keep getting this type of clicks can put increased risk of inflammation of the tendon – tendonitis. This can be quite painful, you may need to stop some of the activities that are aggravating that for some time until it has recovered.
It’s often a relatively easy fix, by reducing the tightness in the muscle. Chiropractors and Osteopaths also check the underlying reason for why that muscle is tightening up in the first place. Without doing that, the muscle is likely to keep tightening.
Another reason for your joints to click is if some joints are stiff, other joints may have to overcompensate by moving more than normal. This may lead to some gas in that joint releasing, creating a popping sound.
This is similar to the sound you hear when having a chiropractic or osteopathic adjustment. The difference however is that when your body does it on its own, it’s more likely the joints that are already working too hard are moving. When a chiropractor or osteopath performs this technique, it is specific to the joints that are stiff and so they require the additional movement to restore balanced functional movement back into the body.
So you have decided that you want to get more fit, more healthy, and get more movement in your body, then you may have considered joining a gym or actually working out at home.
I want to share with you some personal tips that I have used, as I was a gym novice at one point (everyone starts as a beginner, right?)
When I was a teenager, I decided that I needed to make a change, create more movement. Especially coming from an Indian culture where someone who is overweight is described as being “healthy”, I was often described as being “very healthy”.
Initially I was quite scared of going to a gym. Not only because it was very expensive for me at the time, or whether I would even use it enough, but I felt unsure and intimidated by my own limiting beliefs about knowing what to do and where to go.
I was very lucky, at the time I was living with my parents who had bought a treadmill for the family to use, so I had access to that, but I would also go outside for a run, or even a bike ride.
When it came to lifting weights, I was not sure where to start. So I bought a cheap set of weights and start using at home, just on the bedroom floor, every single day. Eventually as my confidence grew, and the weights got heavier, to the point where it was becoming dangerous, I started to consider using a gym so that I could prevent any potential injuries, and take my health and fitness to another level.
I was first worried that I would not fit in in a gym. The image I had in my mind was there would be all these big strong guys in there, and kept on drawing these false comparisons. Actually what I was pleasantly surprised by is no one in the gym cared, it was not like that at all, everyone is actually like you, and they are all too busy focussed on their own workout.
Make sure you choose a gym that you really like. I looked around at a lot of the gyms in my area before deciding on the one I joined. Take advantage of the induction by the gym staff. Ask as many questions as you can, especially about any of the machines that you are not sure of. Even today, if there’s a new piece of equipment in the gym that I am not sure about, I will ask one of the staff who are only too happy to show me how it works. This enables me to make sure I get the best use out of it, and also prevent any injury from incorrect use.
Other members of the gym may be meaning well by offering advice. However in my experience most people have fallen into so many bad habits, it’s best to always seek professional advice from the gym staff.
For whatever reason, there is a stigma regarding women generally avoiding the weights section of the gym (although I am happy to see this is starting to shift in recent years). See combining weightlifting with cardiovascular exercise is important for general wellbeing and health.
As a functional chiropractor and osteopath, I think about the body moving in a realistic way. I believe any workout should be a rehearsal to practice movements that we would do in the real world. With weightlifting that means using free weights rather than machines. I am a very big fan of dumbbells as they allow natural movement patterns.
Once you get used to some basic exercises, start considering using different weights in each hand. See when you are picking up bags, they are never the same weight in both arms. By mimicking that movements in the gym will allow your body to get used to it, so not only will you be more efficient at moving that way, it will also considerably reduce your risk of any injury.
Another great tip is to create balance in your body using weights. When performing a pushing movement, also make sure you perform an equal and opposite pull movement.
A common mistake with weightlifters in the gym is they are performing the movements far too fast. This can increase the friction on the tendons, making it more prone to tendonitis or injury.
Our muscles have two types of fibres – fast twitch and slow twitch. It is important to strengthen both.
When contracting and lifting a weight, aim to perform that in 2 seconds or less.
Hold the weight at maximum contraction for 2 seconds.
Then lower the weight for 4 seconds.
This is the safest and most efficient method I have found to help grow stronger and healthier in the muscular system. It also reduces a stress response in your body, so you have less cortisol hormone produced, which in large amounts can be damaging.
If you are pregnant, know someone who is pregnant, or trying to become pregnant this is for you.
I see a lot of patients who are either pregnant or have happened to become pregnant whilst under our care.
The adult human body changes the most, in the shortest period of time during a pregnancy than at any time. The spine of an expectant mother really goes through a huge transformation. A lot of weight is gained in just 9 months when creating an entire human being!
Aside from weight gain there are a lot of other changes that occur during pregnancy.
One of the biggest changes is the production of a hormone called Relaxin. It’s role is to soften the touch ligaments of the pelvis to prepare for childbirth.
See when we look at the spine and pelvis, it doesn’t take very long to realise that the space in the pelvis for a baby to pass through during natural delivery is far too small. Relaxin will help add laxity to the touch pelvic ligaments, to allow a little extra space from the baby to pass through the birthing canal. Also to help further, during the birthing process the baby’s skull bones will squeeze just enough to be able to pass through – it really is an amazing process!
However Relaxin being a hormone, it is transported in the blood, so this means it’s affects do not end up being specific to just the pelvic area, but affects ALL the soft tissues in the body. All the other ligaments in the rest of the body also then have increased laxity in them. See, ligaments are great at helping you to prevent injury. If they are not able to function correctly, you can be prone to more injury.
In my experience, the expectant mothers I have see at AVID Clinic have had their muscular system take over the role of some of those ligaments. Muscles require a lot more energy to contract, so doing this for a longer period of time than they are meant can increase to the aches, pains and discomfort.
It may also lead to more pinching on nerves, further adding to unnecessary discomfort and less than optimal function, all whilst growing a new human baby.
Without professional spinal care, e.g. by an Osteopath or Chiropractor, to ensure the body is functioning optimally, all these because a lot more difficult than it needs to be.
It also helps to prepare for life after having the baby. Sleep patterns for the parent(s) will be disrupted with feeding and napping patterns. Posture during breastfeeding, hauling the pram in and out of the car, twisting awkwardly to put the baby in the car seat all have further impact mechanical on the body.
Breastfeeding posture can be quite a slouched position, often for long periods of time. Relaxin hormone continues to be produced in the mother until they stop breastfeeding.
The beauty of Chiropractic and Osteopathy is that they are natural and safe. Chiropractors and Osteopaths don’t put anything new in the body or take anything out, meaning we find where parts of the body are not working optimally and get them to function at their peak, helping the baby, the mother and the family.