by Megan Johnson McCullough, Every BODY’s Fit, special to SportsMD.com
Nearly 60-80% of the general adult population suffers from low back pain. Yes, that many of us. Annual medical costs associated with this type of injury is reported to be nearly $26 billion in the United States. Reportedly, 85% of male gymnasts have low back pain, as well as 80% of weightlifters, 69% of wrestlers, 58% of soccer players, 50% of tennis players, and 30% of golfers. When the joints are operating properly, when muscles are abnormally activated, and when there is malalignment with movement patterns, optimal muscle performance in the back is compromised.
Low back pain takes place when our spine is not in a neutral position. The low back might round or arch or one might lean forward causing this discomfort. This asymmetry can lead to pressure on certain disks from poor posture and the body communicates with its inflammatory pain response. Sciatica is very common, which occurs when the ruptured disc is placing pressure on the sciatic nerve that runs down the buttocks and then down the leg. Symptoms can range from a dull ache to a stabbing or shooting feeling. If this pain persists for more than 3 months, low back pain is considered chronic.
Movement that involves lifting, pulling, or twisting of the spine can contribute to low back pain. Continued carrying of a purse, bag, or briefcase can cause the low back to assist the upper body to hold the item. Many of us overstuff our bags. Fewer trips from the car to the house mean loading up our arms to carry more. Being inactive then suddenly becoming active can make one vulnerable to this pain. Some people are inactive during the week then decide to play golf, surf, or play on their softball team on the weekends. This asks the back to twist and turn with little preparation. When you slouch, your back is supporting your upper body weight. Sitting is a main culprit for low back pain. A good tip for better posture in the seated position is to place the feet on a low stool. The discs in our back do wear and tear from injuries and aging. Being overweight is also added weight for the back.
An X-ray, CT, or MRI can be done by a doctor to help with treatment. Back pain can get better with a heating pad or nice warm bath. Bed rest is not recommended because this lack of movement only leads to further inflexibility and reduced muscle tone. Chiropractors and osteopathic doctors are options help a person treat low back pain through manipulation. Massage therapy and/or acupuncture can also help. There are over the counter and prescription medications. Injections are possible too. Physical therapy can help and surgery can be done (hopefully not).
Use your legs—not your back—for lifting heavy objects, stay at a healthy weight, and make sure you are conscious of your posture when sitting and standing. Let’s lower that painful 80% of suffering and take care of the bodies we are fortunate to have been given.