Back Pain Relief: Part 1 – Causes
The High Cost of Back Pain
Back pain, it’s hard to live with but it’s something everyone is likely to deal with at some point. Lower back pain is one of the top 10 reasons patients seek care from a family
physician.1 In fact, it’s one of the most common medical problems, affecting 8 out of 10
people at some point during their lives. (2)
- 1/3 of all disability costs in the United States are due to low-back disorders. (3)
- Americans spend an estimated $50 billion each year on diagnosing and treating low back pain each year. (2)
- Back pain is a leading contributor to decreased productivity and missed work.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that global prevalence of lower back pain could be as high as 42%.
What Causes Lower Back Pain?
It’s not often that just one event actually causes your lower back pain, although it may
seem that way. More often than not it is a series of “micro injuries” (small falls, muscles
pulls, overuse during activity). You probably don’t even remember them happening but they add up over time.
It’s All Connected
The muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints in your body act as links in an interconnective
chain, working together to allow you to accomplish basic motions like sitting, walking, and
running. If any one of these links is injured or not functioning properly the entire chain
suffers. At times a tight or sore muscle will recruit other muscles to pick up the slack so
you may not realize pain right away, but these other muscles are not made to pick up the
slack for very long and “chain reaction injuries” can occur.
Muscle imbalances occur when muscle strength and functioning along the interconnective chain is not equally efficient. A muscle may be shortened and tight, or weak and therefore is unable to “relax” or contract when needed. Or a muscle or group of muscles may become chronically “over stretched” and weak and are unable to contract when needed. This imbalance modifies body movement, putting strain on muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. The end result is often lower back pain.
We’ve all heard of carpal tunnel syndrome, but your hands aren’t the only body part that suffers when you sit at your computer all day or spend hours in a car. Any activity in which you perform a motion over and over again for extended periods of time puts stress on your body, increasing the chance of developing repetitive motion injuries (RMIs) – particularly in your back. We think of repetitive motion as doing a job over and over but individuals who sit at desks or those who stay in a seated (driver) or standing position (clerk or nurse) for extended periods of time are extremely likely to suffer from RMIs. Muscular pain is the most common symptom of RMIs, but you may also experience swelling, tightness/stiffness, tingling or numbness, and weakness.
While only your doctor can fully diagnose the cause of your low back pain, you can however identify muscle imbalances or repetitive motions that may be causing your pain. Avoiding these or putting a plan in place to negate them /remedy them is a good first step towards finding relief.
For solutions and relief of back pain read Back Pain Relief: Part 2 -Solutions