Low back pain is a common problem which affects 4 out of 5 of us at some point. It’s often caused by a simple muscle, tendon or ligament strain and not usually by a serious problem. Low back pain can be acute, sub-acute or chronic in duration. With chiropractic treatment, the symptoms of low back pain can show significant improvement within a short period of time.
Anatomy of the Lumbar Spine
The low back or lower back is also known as the lumbar spine and is made up of five lumbar vertebrae that are separated by five inter-vertebral discs. The discs may be thought of as spinal shock absorbers, for they absorb the load (axial load) of the body. They also allow for movements such as flexion, extension, and rotation at the waist as they act as a pivot point for the trunk to twist upon.
The vertebrae and discs are held together by groups of ligaments. Ligaments connect bone to bone, whereas tendons connect muscle to bone. In the spine, tendons connect muscles to the vertebrae. The ligaments and tendons help to stabilise the spine and guard against excessive movement in any one direction.
The lumbar spine has several distinguishing characteristics:
- The lower the vertebra is in the spinal column, the more weight it must bear. The five vertebrae of the lumbar spine (L1-L5) are the biggest unfused vertebrae in the spinal column, enabling them to support the weight of the entire torso.
- The lumbar spine’s lowest two spinal segments, L4- L5 and L5-S1, which include the vertebrae and discs, bear the most weight and are therefore the most prone to degradation and injury.
- The lumbar spine meets the sacrum at the lumbosacral joint (L5-S1). This joint allows for considerable rotation, so that the pelvis and hips may swing when walking and running.
- The spine also has joints known as facet joints. Facet joints are located at the posterior area of the spinal column (on the back side of the spinal column). In addition, the facet joints help to make the spine flexible and enable you to bend forward, backward, and side to side.
Causes of Low Back Pain
In the majority of cases, the cause of back pain can be linked to the way that the bones, muscles and ligaments in the back work together. Back pain can come on suddenly or gradually, and is sometimes the direct result of a fall or injury. The complex structure of your lower back means that even small amounts of damage to any part of the lumbar region can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.
Some of the most common causes of stress and strain on the spine include:
- Poor posture – slouching in chairs, driving in hunched positions and standing badly
- Lifting incorrectly
- Sleeping on sagging mattresses
- Being unfit
- Generally overdoing it – over tiring muscles and not using a gradually increasing work or sports programme. Not warming up or cooling down before and after exercise will also cause muscle pain
- Inactivity and the wrong sort of movement are usually at the root of simple back pain. Inactivity makes the muscles go slack and weak so they are unable to support the back properly. This leaves the back more vulnerable to damage when certain movements put too much strain on one area.
Often, the problem is caused by a strain or tear to the muscles, tendons or ligaments around the lower spine. In turn, this can produce painful muscle tension and spasm.
If you experience back pain, timely access to expert advice can prevent chronic back pain and in doing so reduce the negative impact these chronic conditions can have on your work, lifestyle and everyday activities. When suffering with back pain the key to success is to form a correct diagnosis and develop a treatment plan best suited to provide relief. Should a diagnosis not be possible from history and examination, The City of London Chiropractor Clinic has established referral processes to MRI, CT and X-ray departments to provide the diagnostic evaluations required to direct treatment.
Symptoms of Low Back Injury
A low back injury’s principle symptom is pain:
- The pain may radiate down the front, side, or back of your leg, or it may be confined to the low back.
- The pain may become worse with activity.
- Occasionally, the pain may be worse at night or with prolonged static positions.
- You may have pain, numbness or weakness in the part of the leg that receives its nerve supply from a compressed nerve.
- When you have low back pain it is generally accompanied by stiffness. The spine may even look twisted slightly when you look in a mirror. This is a natural coping mechanism by the body as a result of muscle spasm to protect against dural tension.
Your chiropractor at The City of London Chiropractor Clinic will examine your low back pain to determine the exact structure which has been injured. Once this has been established a suitable treatment plan can be identified.
When is Back Pain Serious?
Please be aware that if you have any of the following symptoms, you should contact a professional immediately:
- You feel generally unwell, such as if you have a fever/night sweats as well as severe pain
- You lose control of your bladder or bowel
- You feel numb or have pins and needles in the saddle region (genitals/back passage)
- Both legs feel weak
- You feel unsteady on your feet