Three recent studies demonstrated clinical findings that predict potential acute low back pain episodes. These low back pain risk factors are as follows:
1.Decreased lumbar lordosis.
The lumbar lordosis is the curve in your lower back. Too little lordosis may mean the lower back is tight and under stress from the pelvis, legs and mid back structures. Moving the wrong way with any impact of force can cause acute lower back pain, muscle damage and a back sprain.
2.Decreased lumbar lateral flexion range of motion
Lateral flexion of the lower back is important because a lack of lateral flexion can indicate tight gluteal and calf muscles which will load the lateral leg and possibly result in a back sprain with lifting or even bending. Movement should be like a slinky, smooth and continuous. Most people who injure their lower back have impaired or improper movement due to restricted lateral flexion.
Tight hamstrings are more often the symptom rather than the problem. Tight hamstrings can represent problems in the calves, and gluteal muscles which will load the lateral legs and restrict motion in the pelvis, which can result in more strain in and around the lower back vertebral joints and the associated fascia and musculature. More often though, what is thought to be tight hamstrings is often the lateral fascia of the legs which can extend through the lower back into the upper body regions. Stretching them may feel good, but in time, stretching hamstrings will scar up the insertions at the pelvis and reduce motion in the pelvis overall. Since the pelvis absorbs shock, and also is important to core function, any asymmetry in the body can distort it resulting in stiffness and increasing your risk for acute back pain.
This is a finding seen most often on x ray. Is the degeneration as seen on an x ray the symptom or the problem? The better way to look at degeneration on an x ray is to see it as a history of function. A large amount of degeneration means there are functional problems in the legs, feet and core affecting the spine for years, resulting in the degeneration. Mechanically speaking, long term asymmetrical forces in and around the pelvis from tight fascia that is a response to how we are built and how we walk will result in these types of findings. Looking at an x-ray from a medical point of view must take into account the mechanical function of your body style and your gait for a degenerated spine on an x-ray to offer a full understanding of why the x-ray shows degeneration. Prior trauma may be in the persons history, but many people who have had trauma may also have x-rays that do not show a lot of degeneration, so it is important to understand from a physicians point of view the full clinical picture.
5. Previous episodes of low back pain
If you have had previous episodes of lower back pain, it is likely you also have a restriction in lateral flexion and hamstring range of motion, and a reduced lumbar lordosis were associated with an increased risk of developing LBP over a 12-month period.
Degenerative disc changes and previous a history of low back pain are risk factors for recurrent episodes in the future. The idea that back problems are self resolving is untrue for most of us, since we find out that in our later years, the mechanisms behind the original back problem have worsened, resulting in more back pain, disability and other problems such as knee, foot, ankle, neck and shoulder problems as well.
Those of us who have back problems often have had other problems in the spine and extremities as well, since back problems are ultimately problems with the way we move.
Here are three things you can do now which can help you avoid chronic lower back problems.
- Foam rolling. The problem with lower back pain may not be resolved by foam rolling, but may be improved with it, since problems with motion tend to be caused by the fascia, a connective tissue that controls motion in the body, rather than the muscles themselves. Self applying myofascial release with a foam roller can improve flexibility and mobility overall. Check out our protocols for foam rolling by clicking here.
- Yoga bridging can improve the mobility of the joints and improve your overall feeling of wellbeing. It is also a great way to stabilize the core muscles and improve core function, which ultimately will help reduce the likelihood of a back pain episode.
- See a chiropractor first. Most of us are unaware of our problems with the back unless we experience pain. If we are stiff all the time, we may consider this to be normal. Is there a normal or is the way we feel and function what we consider normal? A chiropractors holistic approach to the looking at the whole body can help you demystify your back problems. The chiropractic approach to restoring motion in the back using manipulation, myofascial release and exercises is proven in numerous studies, safe and well accepted. Seeing the right doctor of chiropractic first can determine your experience and cost for resolving a back problem, while avoiding unnecessary tests or interventions that can be harmful in the long run. Resolving the cause may prevent other motion related problems in other joints and parts of the body such as the neck, shoulders, knees, hips, ankles and feet.