05 May What is Back Pain?
You don’t need to be in the fitness industry to have heard the phrase “I have a bad back”. What does that mean? For years I, like many, just accepted that statement and let it go. However, I now challenge and question that assertion. I need to… it’s just too nebulous. Is it an injury? If so, what is the injury and what is required to heal it? What caused it initially? What do you do when you feel it?
In my experience, I have found that most “bad backs” are a result of a few very correctable issues:
- Inflexibility – tightness in one or more muscles that are causing constriction and irritation of a nerve
- Imbalance – one muscle is weaker than it should be to perform it’s intended purpose and one muscle is overactive to compensate for that
- Inflammation – a muscle becomes swollen due to some sort of minor injury (contusion, hyper-extension…). This puts pressure on a nerve and pain results
There are several injuries/conditions that are significant and real and they should be taken very seriously. Even with many of these, there is only so much a doctor can do. They will perform surgery, administer injections, prescribe braces and pain killers yet people are still living with chronic pain.
Simply put pain is caused by a nerve being irritated. The problem is that if nothing is being done to change that, then the problem persists.
For example, a person goes through life engaging in a repetitive movement that uses just one side of their body (i.e. carrying a heavy briefcase). They begin to have a nagging pain in their lower back that they feel in other areas of their life. Often all that is required to end the pain all together is to strengthen the opposing muscles and stretch the overactive muscles. This doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years for an imbalance get point that it is causing pain and one should expect at least a few weeks or months to correct that.
I have also come to believe that a good chiropractic adjustment will help as well. If your bones are aligned properly, it helps your muscles maintain their proper positioning as well. If you don’t continue to correct the muscle imbalance though, it will pull the bones out of alignment again.
People experience back pain and they discontinue physical activity and I believe it exacerbates the issue. Inactivity feeds inflexibility and imbalances. The pain is real, so you need to take it slow, but doing nothing… well, does nothing. Inflammation is the exception to this because it does require rest to assist reducing the swelling. However, it does not mean that one must discontinue all activity. Just because one muscle must rest does not mean that all muscles must rest.
- Start slow and don’t push it too hard
- Make it progressive – very gradual increases will see great results while minimizing pain
- Trial and error – often the biggest challenge is determining what is the cause and how to correct it. Some exercises will cause too much pain, but there are many options that can bring the same result
- It doesn’t need to be specific – general fitness and flexibility will often correct the situation without specifically identifying what it is.
I have suffered from back pain and injuries. I know how debilitating they can be, but don’t let yourself be a victim. The BAD BACK is not the boss of you! With some professional guidance and a cautious, progressive exercise program can reap remarkable results that will improve the quality of life.