Alleviating Low Back Pain is the Goal

Dr. Grant Smith

Dr. Grant Smith

This article is about low back pain. Low back pain is the second most common reason for doctors’ visits outnumbered by a slim margin to upper respiratory infections.

Can you recall how you felt when you got out of bed this morning? Were your bones creaking like the floor of a run down Dojang? Do you feel as if the sands of time have settled in the small of your back? Well let’s do something about that, shall we?

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Some interesting facts on low back pain:

50% of all working Americans suffer from back pain and it is one of the most common reasons for missed work throughout the year. If they are missing work then they are missing their martial arts class!

We spend at least 50 billion each year seeking remedies for such ailments.

Experts estimate that 80% of the population will experience back pain at some time in their lives.

Obviously low back pain is a common occurrence and is almost inevitable unless you take care of yourself. Besides maintaining a well balanced diet and getting enough rest while reducing the stress in your life, exercise is a very important element and should be implemented into a daily routine in order to strengthen the lower torso (core) and prevent further spinal complications. Exercise promotes healing and increases circulation, which brings more healing nutrients to the affected area. There are many different things that you can do for the low back. However, recommending specific exercises for a low back condition can be tricky because of conflicting schools of thought.

One thing is certain, extension exercises are not recommended because of facet jamming and compression of the nerves. Looking at the biomechanics of the trunk and lower extremity there are certain groups of muscles that aid in low back support. The lumbar extensors and abdominals provide stabilization for the lower torso. The quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteals help support the pelvis. When working these muscle groups it is important to use caution and safety, “even if you know what you’re doing.” Your instructors and/or masters are a great tool in getting your started on the right foot.

Remember, everybody is different and what works for one person may not work for the next. Low back pain is recognized by imbalance and weakness in varying degrees whether it is bone, joint capsule, nerve, ligament, muscle or tendon. A proper exercise regimen, complete with warm-up and warm-down should be targeted toward improving flexibility, postural imbalance and strength.

In my next article I will discuss specific exercise and the proper way to do them. Until then, consult a Chiropractor, Medical Physician, Physical Therapist or primary health care provider.

Tips to prevent low back pain:

  • Maintain a healthy diet and weight
  • Remain active – under the supervision of a health care professional or your master instructors
  • Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest
  • Warm up properly and stretch before exercised and especially before throwing any kicks
  • Maintain proper posture
  • Wearing comfortable shoes and/or low heeled shoes
  • Sleep on a mattress of medium firmness to minimize any curve in your spine.
  • If you must lift anything, lift with your knees while keeping the object close to your body and try to prevent any twisting once the object has left the ground.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking deprives oxygen and impairs blood flow
  • See your Chiropractor or Physical Therapist on a regular basis for a check-up.

References:

1. Jensen M, Brant-Zawadzki M, Obuchowski N, et al. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People Without Back Pain. N Engl J Med 1994; 331: 69-116.

2. Vallfors B. Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.

3. This total represents only the more readily identifiable costs for medical care, workers compensation payments and time lost from work. It does not include costs associated with lost personal income due to acquired physical limitation resulting from a back problem and lost employer productivity due to employee medical absence. In Project Briefs: Back Pain Patient Outcomes Assessment Team (BOAT). In MEDTEP Update, Vol. 1 Issue 1, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Rockville,

4. In Vallfors B, previously cited.
5. Time to recognize value of chiropractic care? Science and patient satisfaction surveys cite usefulness of spinal manipulation. Orthopedics Today 2003 Feb; 23(2):14-15.

6. Bigos S, Bowyer O, Braen G, et al. Acute Low Back Problems in Adults. Clinical Practice Guideline No.14. AHCPR Publication No. 95-0642. Rockville, MD: Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, December, 1994.

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