Because the low back bears much of the upper body’s weight and is a key stress point in body movements, the most common problem I see is called mechanical low back pain. This is simply a problem with the function, position and movement of the spinal joints and with the supporting muscles that move these joints. If the spinal joints, muscles and discs are not working smoothly together you can develop pain and dysfunction in the lower back.
The problem may be that:
- Spinal joints may not be moving properly through their normal range of motion.
- Structurally the low back may have moved out of its normal alignment or posture.
- Spinal joints may be vulnerable to instability if the surrounding musculature is not strong or flexible enough.
These can all lead to pain in the sensitive spinal joints and the surrounding muscles.
What can you expect if you have mechanical low back pain?
- The muscles that move the spinal joints may tighten or spasm.
- The nerves that exit the spine can become irritated.
- Inflammation may occur in the joints and muscles.
- Postural changes and body imbalances may occur.
- Achiness, stiffness and pain may spread across the back and sometimes into the buttocks, hips and upper legs.
Mechanical low back pain can sometime be brought on by overuse, trauma or strenuous activity but often instead of one particular event that brings it on, it is rather it is an accumulation of smaller things over time. Often people cannot recall any one thing that brought it on but recall that it just sort of started. The diagnosis is most often made with a physical exam and sometimes X-rays are helpful.
Mechanical low back pain often responds very well to chiropractic care. Treatment is focused on restoring proper function, position and movement of the spinal joints and their supporting muscles. Treatment often includes chiropractic adjustments, muscle stimulation, heat, ice, massage, muscle work, stretching, strengthening and specific exercises.
Even though mechanical lower back pain frequently responds well to chiropractic treatment, it is often episodic and can reoccur. Once you have had it occur, it is more likely that it will happen again. Untreated mechanical low back pain can be a factor in developing spinal arthritis / degeneration.
Prevention is focused on keeping the low back strong and flexible. Avoiding poor posture, watching your weight, avoiding long periods of sitting, and caution with lifting and bending are also helpful.