The reason why you are reading this is likely because you are suffering from a lower back pain / ache of some sort. Do not worry, you are not alone, 80% of adults will experience some form of lower back pain in their lives. While this article will not be sufficient to serve as a proper diagnosis, it could possibly shed some light on what you are going through, and also give you some tips to relieve the pain and rehabilitate your lower back.
Whether you acquired your lower back pain through sports or in another setting, a lower back pain should be treated seriously! Hence we provided a step by step guide to understanding lower back pain! But if you are here just for some quick tips to rehabilitate / prevent future lower back pain, scroll right down to Step 4.
Step 1: Understand the Types of Lower Back Pain
Acute Lower Back Pain
Acute lower back pain typically lasts from a few days to a few weeks. You may feel symptoms that ranges from a muscle ache to a sharp stabbing pain. You may also have limited flexibility and range of motion. Acute lower back pain if left untreated, may carry forward and develop into a chronic problem.
Chronic Lower Back Pain
This is a pain that has been lingering for more than 3 months. Similarly, pain can be dull and aching, or even sharp at times. The cause of chronic lower back pain is likely to be slow and progressive, one that developed over time.
Step 2: Identify the Cause
Sprains and strains
This often happens when you lift something too heavy off the ground, with a poor posture that includes a rounded back. You would typically feel a sharp acute pain at the onset of injury – likely upon lifting. It may or may not inhibit your movement immediately, but it would likely cause further pain in the next few days. In this case, you would have likely overstretched or torn a muscle or ligament. Do note that vigorous twisting movements of your spine also could be a cause.
Intervertebral disc degeneration
Degeneration of the intervertebral discs reduces the vertebrae’s ability to withstand forces and transmit load through the spine. The spinal discs in our vertebrae begins degeneration as early as in our teenage years, between 11 – 16 years, occurring to ~20% of teens. Unfortunately, degeneration increases steeply with age. Factors that speed up the degenerative process include, repetitive over-loading (weight + frequency) of spine, smoking, and obesity.
Herniated or ruptured discs
This is also widely known as “Slipped Disc”, where one of your intervertebral discs move out of place or rupture, putting pressure onto a spinal nerve. This is often caused by an acute traumatic onset. You may have sharp pain in not only your lower back, but also part of the leg, hip, or buttocks. You may even feel numbness in other parts. The same leg on the affected side of the lower back may also feel weak.
Step 3: Seek a Medical Practitioner for treatment
As you may have noticed, lower back pain is a multifactorial injury, which involves (but not limited to) your muscles, ligaments, bones and the intervertebral discs. Hence it could be more complicated than you think!. You should seek a professional diagnosis from a certified medical practitioner before administering any remedies!
Step 4: Rehab & Prevention
Prevention can only commence after you have undergone required treatment. Believe it or not, there are ways to prevent recurring lower back pain. These are some that worked perfectly for me, recovering from recurrent lower back pain due to muscle sprains.
1. Work Your Core
Your spine is surrounded by layers and layers of muscles which protects it from damage. The core muscles are not just referring your abdominal muscles. Major core muscles are, the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, and the diaphragm. The core muscles help transmit force throughout the entire body. If your core muscles are weak, your spine receives lesser support, and more forces will eventually pass through your spine, resulting in potential injury.
Apart from the regular abs exercises, did you know that compound lifts (i.e. squats, military presses, deadlifts) trains the deep muscles in your core too?
2. Stretch your hamstrings, glutes and lower back
These muscles form the posterior chain of your body, and they are very much related to each other, due to their close proximity with one another. Yet, they are the often forgotten and ignored – “Out of sight, out of mind”. When seated for too long these muscles shorten and become very tight. As such, they weaken easily as well. Shortened, weakened and tight muscles makes a good recipe for injuries. Get out of your seat once in awhile and always remember to fit in some time to stretch these muscle groups!
3. Myofascial Release
‘Myo’ means muscle and ‘fascia’ means band. The muscle band upon injury forms scar tissues, which are much more inelastic than that of the normal muscle band itself. This difference in elasticity messes up the fascia network, and results in tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch.
To release this pressure, you could go for a sports massage, or you could DIY by using a foam roller, or a trigger ball. This also promotes better flexibility and blood flow.
4. Be Active
This is really important, regardless of the causes of your lower back pain. You should always aim to be reasonably active to your best ability. Especially for muscle related lower back pains, it is vital to engage in various activities that does not aggravate the injury. You could swim, take leisure walks, or even rework your training routine a little to work around the injury. Anything beats a full 100% bed rest, as it will cause further contractures and muscle spasms, that will not contribute to healing.
Staying Committed to Your Health & Fitness