The Truth About Lower Back Pain Relief - Updated 2018
SICK AND TIRED OF STRUGGLING WITH BACK PAIN? Then read on...
Early on in my career as a Physiotherapist I realised that what we were taught about lower back pain relief treatments was only partially correct. I was not getting the desired results with my patients, which created a lot of frustration. From that point on I decided to do my own research, try different treatment techniques, developed my own and devised different exercises to see what worked and what didn’t.
Physiotherapists, unlike Chiropractors & Osteopaths, learn about muscle imbalances but not in the way it should be taught. The exercises often taught by most manual therapists are too basic and do not address the real muscle imbalance problems. Thus NOT providing effective lower back pain relief long term.
Often people are being manipulated and told to perform a few simple back pain exercises. They will then be explained to come back in 2 months for another manipulation as their back will be out of alignment again or the joint needs loosening off again…?
…nothing could be further from the truth!
The Truth About How to Get Lasting Lower Back Pain Relief?
The best way to get effective lasting relieve from lower back pain is to deal with the source of the problem, which could be found in any of the 3 'pillars'...'the body', 'the mind' and 'the diet'.
Before I start to discuss how to get effective relief from lower back ache, I want to quickly go over the causes of low back pain.
What Causes Lower Back Pain?
What causes your low back pain and what is the cause of your back pain are 2 different things. Sounds confusing doesn't it?!
Ok, let me explain...
The TRUE CAUSE of back pain is a process. This process eventually creates a spinal condition, that in turn causes pain! Now you are probably even more confused... Don't worry it will all become clear...
The THREE most common reasons for lower back pain are trauma, muscle imbalances and gravity. Muscle imbalances can have a negative effect on your body's and spine alignment, leading to what are called “physical dysfunctions.” These dysfunctions include abnormal alignment of the pelvis and abnormal curvature of the spine. This misalignment causes increased wear and tear on the joints, muscles, ligament and the discs.
The most important thing to understand about any lower back pain is that, barring trauma, it doesn’t happen overnight, it's a process as I mentioned earlier. You may be come symptomatic very quickly, but it takes a long time for the condition to get to the point where your back finally gives in and becomes painful.
Gravity causes daily compression of the spine (at the end of the day we are 2 cm shorter) and the curse of modern western society, slumped positions (sitting) causes further compression of the spine, creating uneven stresses of the discs and eventually break down.
So these TRUE CAUSES as I call them eventually lead to a spinal condition to develop, that causes lower back pain...
In other words...
Ligaments, facet joints joints and the sacroiliac joints when misused or injured, typically create back ache. Herniated disc, osteoarthritis (joint weakening), spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, cracks of the vertebrae and spine defects are the sources for causing pressure on the nerve roots, which inevitably results in pain in the back and ultimately sciatica.
Other sources which are much less usual feature:
- ankylosing spondylitis
- microbial infection
- spinal tumors
- paget's disease and
- scheuermann's condition.
The conditions are the cause of pain and the muscle imbalances and gravity (sometimes trauma) cause a spinal condition!
Your spinal diagnosis is not the cause, it is a result of the TRUE CAUSE, the process that has been happening at the background for years.
What Are the Most Common Lower Back Pain Treatments?
So let's get into the real issue of the truth about lower back pain relief.
As I mentioned earlier most people seeking treatment get 'spinal manipulations' and a few simple generic exercises, which does not result in long term relief of pain in the lower back. But to be honest I started off in the same way after I qualified 24 years ago.
Other common low back pain treatments employed by physicians include, cortisone injections and prescriptions for muscle relaxants or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Chiropractors and physical therapists usually offer spinal mobilization, hot packs, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and therapeutic exercises.
Surgery should always be your last option and should only be considered if the severity of your condition warrants it.
Why do traditional lower back pain treatments fail?
Most traditional treatments fail because they simply address the symptoms and fail to address the cause of the condition. Your low back pain is a physical problem, and it requires a physical solution.
There are no pills or injections that can restore muscle balances in your body because they are unable to take the pressure off the disc, nerve or make the joints work better.
At present I get many back pain patients whom have had this experience with other health practitioners and thus never got rid of their back pain. Hence they ended up in my Clinic to ask for help with lower back pain relief as their back pain had only worsened over the years.
Another challenge arose for me when I started to see a group of people not getting better 100%. Yes they showed improvement, but only to a certain level.
It was at this stage I realised that there was more then just the physical side that needed addressing. Quickly I figured there were 2 other areas that are as important to be treated.
One is issues related to the mind and the other is various aspects of our diet. These ‘2 pillars’ as I call them, can cause ongoing pain when not addressed if needed...
The 3 Pillars to Effective Relief of Lower Back Pain
Personally I strongly belief that good health means that our body, mind and diet are all balanced correctly. If these 3 pillars, as I refer to them, are un-balanced our body can’t heal properly. Thus no lower back pain relief is found...
Your body is constantly striving to achieve and maintain equilibrium in all aspects, and oftentimes all it needs to heal is a gentle reminder of what “normal” is. In other words you often will find a combination of various causes, within each of the 3 pillars, that are all working together to keep you in pain.
Let’s have a closer look together at the 3 pillars to healing back ache effectively...
Pillar 1 - The Body
In today’s modern society you use your body in an unbalanced manner, which most of you are not aware of at all. To explain this a little further, let me take you back in time.
Our ancestors had to hunt for their food, work the land etc, thus they were walking, running, jumping from rock to rock, basically constantly using their body in many different ways.
The muscles and nervous system were constantly challenged in a variety of ways, but more importantly not constantly the same way. Most muscles in the body were used equally over time.
Now think about your own day to day life. You probably drive to work, sit in the office at your desk for most of the day, come home and sit down to watch some tv or read a book. Maybe you go out for a walk…
But overall you have been sitting most of the day and probably walked in total for 1 hour (or if you lucky 2 hours). Or you may have done some kind of activity that you generally do for most of the day.
So what happens is that certain muscles are not used much and others more day to day. Muscles that are not used much will weaken and those that are used more become stronger or even tighter, eventually creating...
Those muscle imbalances will pull your spine (your body) out of alignment with resulting in un-even stress being placed on various structures in the spine and eventually resulting in pain.
Pillar 2 - The Mind
Let’s get one thing out of the way first… ‘You are not imagining the pain or it is not in your head’. If there is one subject I need to approach with extreme caution with my patients it is this subject of ‘the mind’, emotional related pain.
Few people want to be told that their pain is psychological or emotional in origin. Even though there is quite a bit of evidence that backs this up. Underlying emotional issues (like relationship problems, stress at work or unhappy at work, financial stress etc.) and repressed emotions can have a massive influence on your health, particularly as it relates to physical pain.
Personally I strongly belief, and other health professionals and scientists from various fields of medicine do, that your emotional health and your ability to effectively address your stress is an essential component of optimal health. Because this can have a major influence on whether or not you’re effective in eliminating your pain.
A very well known scientist in the field of the ‘mind – body connection’ is John Sarno, MD, professor of clinical rehabilitation medicine at New York University. Though Sarno doesn't dispute that the pain is real, he believes it stems from repressed emotions that trigger tension in the body and ultimately deprive nerves and muscles of oxygen.
He believes that relief comes through understanding this link and by learning to deal with these unresolved emotions constructively. Using his theories, Professor Sarno has successfully treated thousands of patients with back problems without drugs, tools or surgery.
Pillar 3 - The Diet
How many of you reading this book have had discussions with their health professional about your diet in relation to your back pain?
Doubt it will be many of you whom had such discussions.
I am sure you have heard of the saying…
You are what you eat!
This is also true when it comes to dealing with back pain. Having a proper diet will make sure that your intake of calcium and vitamin D is enough to help maintain a strong and healthy spine.
Or drinking regularly water during the day, which I am sure you have been told many times before. But this is mainly based on the idea of good health and staying de-hydrated to make sure you can focus and function better day to day.
Which lower back pain treatments work best?
When you have lower back pain and you do not have a proper diagnosis the first suggestion is to seek proper medical attention. Even then there are cases when a proper diagnosis is not given, in that case a conservative approach should be considered.
The use of ice (first 48 hrs) and or heat (after 48hrs) can help control inflammation, pain and stiffness, other natural approaches including enzyme therapy can be of benefit to help control the symptom of the condition.
In most cases of lower back pain, Trigger Points will play a roll, Trigger Points do three things, them make a muscle (tight, weak and painful) so daily trigger point therapy is recommended immediately combined with muscle re-balancing therapy, in order to restore a more neutral and balanced spinal and body alignment.
Inversion Therapy can also be very effective in releasing some of the stress and compression forces on the spine not to mention the many numerous health benefits.
But the most important thing to address is muscle imbalances. While there are many things that cause or contribute to back pain, muscle imbalances are the biggest physical cause as they pull your body out of alignment.
The good news is, muscle imbalances are relatively easy to identify and address. Once you know which imbalances you have, you then can correct the imbalances by performing the right combination of corrective lower back pain exercises and stretches.