Low Back Pain – Putting the Fire Out

Do you suffer from low back pain? If your low back pain is frequent or constant, affects your lifestyle or prevents you from doing the things you want to do then it’s time to re-evaluate what you are doing. And, just as important, what you are NOT doing. 

Most people were not born with low back pain. It is a “learned” pain – usually from years of improper lifting, movement and posture. It is also a cultural phenomenon. Believe it or not, there are cultures that have almost zero incidence of low back pain! 

There are a lot of factors that can contribute to a person’s low back pain that are outside the scope of this article (obesity, depression, smoking and diet to name a few), but there is mounting evidence from the biomechanical world that tells us why most people’s low backs continue to hurt them. 

When I see a patient in our office with acute or chronic low back pain, I explain to them that I have two separate strategies that will eventually converge to help them with their problem.

Strategy 1: we have to “Put the Fire Out”! That means identifying and stopping all movements that are causing or exacerbating low back pain in the first place. This can be tricky, because people often do not realize they are hurting themselves, when in fact, they are. You have to stop scratching the scab!

For example, one of the biggest faulty movement patterns we see is improper forward bending. Your low back was not designed to continually bend forward – regardless of how good “touching your toes” makes you feel. It usually is disastrous for low back pain sufferers. So, the first step is to teach someone how to identify and correct the faulty patterns in their own lives. 

Strategy 2: teaching proper movement patterns, strengthening and balancing for the spine.

You have to learn proper movement patterns to replace the bad ones. This is done methodically, so that we can track what actually helps or hurts you. Some of these exercises are basic movements like how to properly get out of a chair, while others are designed to balance load and build strength in your low back. 

It doesn’t matter if you have been told you have a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease (man I hate that label), disc bulge, lumbar strain or lumbar spinal stenosis. Almost ALL low back conditions can benefit from proper care (hint: “popping” your back is not the answer).

I suggest you read Stuart McGill, PhD’s “Back Mechanic” book. This is a step-by-step approach that we use in the office with most of our low back pain patients. It is a blueprint on how to help yourself, and combined with a professional who’s been properly trained, can help get you back on the road to recovery. Matt, Marc and Rachel all subscribe to this same view, and would be happy to consult with you!

Matt Terreri, DC, CCSP is a sports chiropractor at Southern Oregon Sports & Spine as well as the official chiropractor for the SOU Raiders and a volunteer medical provider for the U.S. Olympics.

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