Lower back pain (lumbago) can be very debilitating on a daily basis. There are many causes of lower back pain and several non-medical solutions.
Disorders Causing Lower Back Pain
Arthritis and herniated discs can be common causes of low back pain. There are some people born with spinal abnormalities that can also contribute to this. Lower back pain can be a problem that comes with aging, after an illness, or via strain, overuse, or injuries. Compression fractures are an example of the latter.1 Degenerative discs, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, and scoliosis are other disorders linked to lower back pain. Even smoking can lead to increased back aches.2 Pregnancy is yet another factor contributing to pain in the lower back.
Ergonomics and Lower Back Pain
Having poor posture, wearing unsupportive shoes, repetitive stress, and sitting incorrectly can all contribute to back pain. Pain in the lumbar region (lower back) is the “most common work-related backproblem”. Muscle and ligament injuries can cause lower back discomfort. People who twist, bend, pull, lift, or push incorrectly can develop more pain. The biggest risk factors are motions that include “force, repetition…harmful posture (and vibration)”.3 If a person stands correctly, the spine curves like an “S”, with the “ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles” aligned. When seated, the hips should be “equal to or slightly higher than (the) knees”. Side sleeping with bent knees, or back sleeping, are much more supportive for the back than stomach sleeping. Besides poor posture, physical condition contributes to low back pain. Being overweight is a major factor: “every pound up front puts 10 pounds of strain on (the) back”. Stress and poor diet, as well as infrequent exercise, can also contribute to back strain. Repetitive trauma is harmful to the muscles and ligaments, as well.4
Stretching, Exercises, Chiropractic, and Massage
Pain management doesn’t necessarily have to come in a pill bottle. All pills, from acetaminophen to NSAIDs to narcotics have side effects, and some medications can be addictive and dangerous. This is why many people may wish to opt for alternative ways to cope with back pain. Rest, stretching, and exercises can be very helpful for lower back pain. Having strong core muscles can stave off problems. Devices can also be useful, such as using an exercise ball or changing to an ergonomic office chair. Some offices may wish to redesign workstations for employees. Other companies may implement changes such as team lifting and job rotation.5 Mechanical aids and good lifting technique can help many people avoid the injuries that cause lower back pain.6 Orthotics may also be suggested to patients with lower back pain. Finally, massage care and chiropractic treatments are beneficial for many patients. Chiropractors can, along with adjustments and other treatments, provide education to patients on lower back exercises and lower back stretches. These may include lower back rotation, double leg pull, hip lift, partial curl-ups, back press and release, arm and leg reaches, calf and hamstring stretches, side stretch, neck and shoulder exercises, and leg pulls and raises.7