Lower back pain is one of the most common ailment faced by people from all walks of life and work occupation.
If you suffer from severe lower back pain to the extend that you are unable to walk or move, please consult a physican to rule out any spine injuries, slipped disk or herniated disk.
I’ve known of 2 friends who suffer from back pain- one has such severe pain that he had to be hospitalised and another has perpetual back pain (means the pain is always with him, affecting his activities of his daily living and sleep). But the MRI scans does not indicate any slipped disk or spine problem. This is not surprising because scans can only detect any broken bones, irregular bone or spine structure.
But it will not detect muscle imbalances- namely tight or weak muscles. Sometimes, the pain from the neck all the way to the knee and ankles could be due to your feet structure- flat feet or feet that have an excessive arch. If you correct the condition, most of the time, the pain will also be gone. For my 2 friends, their pain is real but they are told by doctors that “it’s all in your head.”
There are a few approaches you can use to overcome lower back pain:
1. Consult an occupational therapist or podiatrist
Occupational therapists are professionals who help identify and correct muscle imbalances. Podiatrists are professionals who identify your feet structure- for both of my friends, the pain was attributed to the excessive arch on their feet. If your lower back pain is already very severe that it impairs your movement (but the scan does show anything), then it is wise to seek professional help.
If you suffer from chronic pain and would like to relieve the situation, you will need to start exercising. Even if you go to professionals (as indicated above), they will also recommend exercises that you need to do in order to overcome the condition.
First stage: Stretching
Lower back pain is likely caused by tight hamstrings and/or tight hip flexors and/or erector spinae (spine muscles). Hamstrings are the muscles that runs all the way from your butt to your back thigh. Hip flexors are the muscles you use each time you walk or raise your legs towards your torso- their anatomical names: iliopsoas, recturs femoris, sartorius, tensor fasciae latae and pectineus- don’t let the names scare you.
If you are doing the exercises at home, always start your exercise with light aerobic activity to warm up your muscles and raises your heart rate. You can do a light jog on the spot, continuous brisk walking (for about 5 to 10 minutes). Then only proceed to stretching exercises. If you did not start with warming up, sudden stretching on a cold muscle may result muscle or tendon pull, which leads to even more pain.
Do as much as stretching exercises as possible from top to toe but place more emphasize on the back and hamstrings. I’ve look up some good videos from YouTube on Pain Management.
Second stage: Core Conditioning
After your body is more flexible and the muscles are more relaxed (it may take days of stretching to achieve that, especially if one have not exercise for a long time), it is time to strengthen the core muscles.
Research has shown that with core conditioning as part of the training program, athletes perform better in sports and are able to prevent reoccurring injuries. In her book “Solid to the Core”, the author Janique Farand Taylor mentioned the following (which made perfect sense to me and thus made me bought the book):
“Being a sports physiotherapist for more than 15 years and having encountered a variety of injuries with different patients, I discovered that I could successfully treat injuries, using manual therapeutic techniques, such as soft tissue releases, joints mobilization, craniosacral therapy, and acupuncture. However, if the cause of the original problem was not addressed first, I found that injuries would be more likely to reoccur. This cause- the root of most patients’ discomfort- was an imbalance of the muscles around the core…
Like your house, your body needs a strong foundation to support it. In your body this foundation is made up of your core, a set of muscles and muscle groups that extend from the base of your spine to the area around your pelvis, including the muscles of your abdominal wall and back. Exercises that strengthen these muscles will foster stability and support for all activities that you engage in- from carrying groceries to training for competitive sports. “
It is an area worth learning. For core strengthening, you can join a class near you or try to source for good videos. I’ve collected some videos from YouTube that you are welcomed to view and try out.
- Get a checkup done if the pain is bad to rule out spinal problems and slipped disk or any medical condition that warrants immediate attention/surgery.
- When starting out, adopt the slow and steady strategy- if you are new to the exercises, don’t jerk or move or try to perform ‘stunts’. I know YouTube has lots of extremely challenging moves that are meant for very advanced people. Start from simple and safe exercises to built up the foundation first