• Cathrine Dinnie

Lower back pain: part 1

Soft tissues around the spine play a key role in lower back pain. There are quite a few muscles that work together to support the spine and allow us to move, twist and bend in many directions. explains the muscles very simply and clearly like this: “The extensor muscles are attached to back of the spine and enable standing and lifting objects. These muscles include the large paired muscles in the lower back, called erector spinae, which help hold up the spine, and gluteal muscles. The flexor muscles are attached to the front of the spine and enable flexing, bending forward, lifting, and arching the lower back. The oblique muscles are attached to the sides of the spine and help rotate the spine and maintain proper posture.”

Keeping active helps us keep the back healthy because it encourages the flow of fluid to our discs, providing oxygen and nutrients. When we do not exercise regularly, swelling increases and the discs become malnourished and age more quickly.

Exercising the back also reduces stiffness and helps to prevent the connective fibres, ligaments and tendons from tearing under stress, which in turn prevents injury and back pain.

The lower back, which starts below the rib-cage, is called the lumbar region. Pain here can be intense and is one of the top reasons people take sick leave. Symptoms range from a dull ache to a stabbing or shooting sensation. The pain can make it hard to move or stand up straight.

The back pain that follows heavy lifting or exercising too hard is often caused by a muscle strain. Sometimes back pain can be related to a disc that bulges or ruptures. If a bulging or ruptured disc presses onto the sciatic nerve, pain can run from the buttock down to the feet.

A heat pad or warm baths may provide temporary pain relief. Doctors recommend returning to your normal activities as soon as possible. Studies suggest that any more than a day or two of bed rest can actually make the pain worse and may reduce muscle tone and flexibility.

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