Lower Back Pain is probably the most common musculoskeletal condition afflicting humans. Estimates are as high as 50% of Americans are currently experiencing some back pain and 80% will experience it at some time.
Lower back pain can range from a mild annoyance to disabling. You may feel pain in the lower back, the gluteal area, or the entire leg. Generally, the more irritated your back is, the further down the leg symptoms are felt. The source of the pain can be from a disc, joint, ligament, nerve, muscle or any combination of these.
Most often, back pain is the result of accumulated stress and strain to the back and hence, to recover you need to take a good look at how you treat your back. If your back hurts after sitting for a long time, then limit sitting time and consider getting a better chair or support. If your back is sore in the morning after sleeping on that 15-year-old mattress, you may need to treat yourself to a new mattress. Did your symptoms get worse after lifting a fifty-pound bag of dog food? Then try better mechanics or get some assistance (or smaller bags).
As a runner, you may be more likely to experience pain after running downhill or running longer distances. These two situations tend to result in your back arching more than normal. Sometimes a slight shift in your running posture can improve this. Try to rotate your pelvis so that your back flattens slightly. You will find this technique easiest to learn while lying down. As you feel confident that you can flatten your back while lying down, try it while standing, and then while running. A little tilt can make a big difference.
When you are seeking help for back pain it can be confusing to know what will work best for you – there is so much conflicting information. This is partly due to the complexity of the back and our individual variations.
There is some recent research that may help to direct your efforts. The idea is that there are basically four types of non-surgical treatments for lower back pain. You simply choose the category (listed below) that comes closest to matching your situation. You may find that you fit into more than one category or that over time your situation changes and you need to shift categories. If you don’t feel that any of these categories fits your situation you will probably get the most benefit from trying the “stabilization category”.
Specific Movement Category: Certain movements can have a beneficial effect on your symptoms. If you find that lying on your stomach and propping up on your elbows decreases the pain in your leg or the pain moves more centrally towards your back then perform several repetition of this movement. If your pain decreases or moves more centrally towards the back when you lie on your back and pull your knees towards your chest, then perform several repetitions.
- Manipulation has probably been a method of treating backs since we began walking. Physicians (usually D.O.’s), physical therapists, chiropractors, spouses, hairdressers, and teammates have all joined in on the action, with varying degrees of success. There are several manipulation techniques and theories about them. What is known about this treatment is that a reflex muscle relaxation occurs following the “pop”. You will generally feel less tense and be able to move more freely because of the relaxation. The current research also indicates that there is no change in the position (alignment) of the spine after treatment. Get a good reference before seeking this treatment.