If you’ve ever had lower back pain, you are not alone. About 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes. Low back pain is ranked second only to headaches as the most frequent cause of pain. Back pain can occur following and injury, or can occur for no apparent reason.
It is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work days.
Most low back pain is acute, or short term, and lasts a few days to a few weeks. It tends to resolve on its own with self-care with no residual loss of function. The majority of acute low back pain is mechanical in nature, meaning that there is a disruption in the way the components of the back (the spine, muscle, intervertebral discs, and nerves) fit together and move.
Common Mechanical Causes of Low Back Pain
So here’s some of what we know about the common mechanical causes of LBP.
The Joint-By-Joint Approach
The the body works in alternating patterns of stability and mobility. Each joint, or in some cases series of joints (thoracic-spine, lumbar spine), has a specific function and in today’s world, is also prone to predictable levels of dysfunction. If this pattern is altered in any way, compensation will occur which leads to irritation, inflammation, pain and eventually injury.
- The Lumbar Spine (in yellow) is a stable segment.
- The Hips and Thoracic Spine (in pink) are mobile segments
The Process is Simple
• Lose hip mobility, get low back pain.
• Lose thoracic mobility, get low back pain.
How We Lose Hip and Thoracic Spine Mobility?
You guessed it.. The chair.. You may have heard this before.. “Sitting is the new smoking”.. The average American is sitting 9 hours a day! I have clients that admit to 10 or more! Is this image an exaggeration? Not really.. Go to any office or visit a coffee shop where people are working on their laptops or texting on their cell phones and you will see lots of “C” shaped spines.
“If you don’t move a joint you’re gonna lose the ability to use that joint.”
YOU BECOME WHAT YOU DO!
Muscle imbalances are caused by a sedentary lifestyle: (which is pretty much everybody). Lack of a variety of movements or prolonged periods of sitting cause the muscles in the front of the hips to become short and tight.
“Tightness of the anterior hip structures results in increased compressive loading to the facet joints of the lumbar spine duringthe push-off phase of gait.” _ Mechanical Low Back Pain , Porterfield and DeRosa p. 137
In other words, if your anterior hip is tight-walking and/or running is going to hurt your back. Therefore we need to stretch your iliacus and psoas muscles in the front of the hips.
Short – tight muscles in the front of the hip means long-weak muscles on the back side of the hip.
Those muscles are the glutes, key stabilizers of the lumbar spine.
After we stretch the short-tight side, we strengthen the long-weak side.
End of Part 1: