The lower back is an incredibly well designed structure of interconnecting bones, joints, nerves and muscles, all working together to give your body the support and flexibility it needs However, due to its complex structure, it can also leave you susceptible to injury and pain.
The lower back supports the weight of your upper body, and provides mobility for movements such as twisting and bending. For example, muscles in the lower back can flex and rotate when you walk, whilst also supporting your spinal column and the nerves in your lower back supply sensation, and also power the muscles in the pelvis, legs and feet.
Most commonly, lower back pain results from an injury to your muscles, ligaments, joints or discs, whether you’ve realised you’ve sustained an injury or not. With a range of lower back pain symptoms varying from a dull ache, stinging or burning pains, to muscle spasms, tightness and pain that worsens after sitting or standing, chances are you’ve experienced lower back pain at one point in your life!
It’s important to recognise what type of lower back pain you’re experiencing, so that you know what action to take. If the pain typically comes on suddenly and lasts for a few days or week, this is called acute pain and is normally considered a response of the body to injury or tissue damage. This type of pain usually fades as your body recovers.
If you’ve experienced pain lasting for 6-12 weeks, then you may be experiencing subacute back pain. This is usually mechanical in nature (e.g. muscle strain or joint pain) but is prolonged. At this point medical advice should be taken as by now, it’s probably affecting your daily activities like sleeping and working.
If the pain persists, you could be experiencing chronic back pain. This lasts for over 3 months, with the pain experienced being severe. Chronic back pain sometimes doesn’t respond to initial medical treatment, so this condition would require a thorough medical workup to determine the exact source of the pain.
However, in most cases of back pain, medical attention isn’t required and can be treated with pain relief medication and self-care. Your doctor or pharmacist should be able to advise you on the right type of medication for your needs, and your doctor, physiotherapist or chiropractor may be able to prescribe you physical therapy including specific exercises and stretches which can help.
Another proven way to help treat and regress lower back pain, is through a carefully designed exercise intervention. Studies have found that strength/resistance training exercise programs are more beneficial than other interventions in the treatment of lower back pain, and that cardiorespiratory and combined exercise programs are actually ineffective. It was concluded that physical activity, when applied in the right frequency, duration and intensity, significantly improves pain and related symptoms, and that frequent movement is preferable to sedentary behavior.
The study “exercise and chronic low back pain: what works” reviewed and investigated current evidence for the type and quality of exercise being offered to help combat lower back pain. They found that exercise has a positive effect on chronic lower back pain patients. Another study “lumbar strengthening in chronic lower back pain patients”, carried out exercise for lumbar strengthening on 54 chronic lower back pain patients. They found that after a 10 week exercise intervention, there was a significant rise in strength in the lower back and a reduction in pain and physical and psychological dysfunction. These findings all support the work we are doing at Faultless, with our clients back pain regressing, or disappearing entirely, after following bespoke strength training programs.
So to recap, it would appear that a structured exercise intervention can significantly help combat chronic lower back pain for the majority of people. So if you are suffering from lower back pain, seeking the help from a professional to carry out an exercise intervention would be a great way to start. For any questions and queries feel free to email myself at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on our facebook page!
Ambrose, K. and Golightly, Y. (2015). Physical exercise as non-pharmacological treatment of chronic pain: Why and when. Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology, 29(1), pp.120-130.
Liddle, S., Baxter, D. and Gracey, J. (2004). Exercise and chronic low back pain: what works?. Pain, 107(1), pp.176-190.
Risch, S.V., Norvell, N.K., Pollock, M.L., Risch, E.D., Langer, H., Fulton, M., Graves, J.E. and Leggett, S.H., 1993. Lumbar strengthening in chronic low back pain patients. Spine, 18(2), pp.232-238.