Common Triggers of Low-Back Pain
The majority of people in the United States will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives – and it can be debilitating! Check out some common triggers when it comes to lower back pain and some uncommon understandings in this deep, thorough article!
Experiencing lower back pain?
Low-back pain continues to exist as a stubborn enigma for most health and fitness professionals.
This is due largely to a very narrow and limited understanding of how the human body truly functions. Typically, the “physical therapy 101” approach is undertaken in which the prescription consists of the stretching of presumed short muscles and the strengthening of presumed weak muscles.
At the next echelon of diagnosis, any of a large number of structural pathologies may be identified as the culprit, such as scoliosis, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, radiculopathy, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, osteoporosis, Scheuermann’s disease, rib subluxation, or sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
However, even if one of the above conditions is truly present and contributing to the suffering of low-back pain, rarely are they true, underlying progenitors corrected.
The allopathic, “symptom treatment” model of conventional medicine, unfortunately, plagues the world of orthopedics, physical therapy, and exercise prescription as well.
With that in mind, I hope this short article will shed some light on the web of possible imbalances that can lead to the manifestation of low-back pain.
Beginning with the cases in which low-back pain mostly stems from mechanical or structural issues, very often are poor postural habits, poor movement habits, or poor breathing habits/impaired breathing playing a significant role.
For instance, when you have inadequate mobility around a joint or you lack the ability to properly stabilize a joint, the brain will attempt to work around the lack of mobility or stability and invoke compensation patterns that allow for your intended movements to be carried out, but in an improper or dysfunctional manner.
Therefore, with specific regard to low-back pain, it’s crucial to ensure that there is an adequate amount of mobility and stability present in the joints of the spine and hips in particular.
The spinal column is not designed to function as a weight-bearing structure, it is designed to anchor the myofascial tissues that serve in stabilizing the body’s center of gravity as the body is moved through space.
Motor control and movement habits
Along similar lines, a sedentary lifestyle is certainly detrimental for numerous reasons, but let’s note how seated postures can, over time, stress the intervertebral discs, weaken the multifidus muscles, and lead to oxygen deprivation of the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine and pelvis through hampered blood circulation.
This oxygen deprivation or “ischemia” can irritate nerve endings and reduce neural outflow from motor nerves to muscle fibers, weakening muscles around the low-back area.
Ischemia also directly affects muscle tissue, forcing a shift toward anaerobic (oxygen absence) energy production, which causes a buildup of hydrogen ions that reduce the tissue’s pH level – irritating sensory nerves.
Related tightness, inflammation, and dysfunction can also arise from prolonged experiences of stress or from habituated responses to stress.
Here let’s simply focus on psychological stress (such as that induced by divorce, death of a loved one, or financial pressures) and mechanical stress (such as that induced by an injury, surgery, or poor postural and movement habits). When these types of stressors are continually imposed upon the body, dysfunctional response patterns can become ingrained in the nervous system and negatively affect the way in which the brain integrates the sensory data it receives with its control over motor function.
This can encourage a partial loss of kinesthesia and the establishment of detrimental postural and movement habits as the individual loses proper neuromuscular control of their body which can ultimately lead to undue stress on muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and fascia. Such undue stress manifests acute pain or chronic pain if the underlying imbalances are not corrected.
When one’s kinesthetic sense becomes dysfunctional, their ability to exert and maintain appropriate length and tone within their skeletal muscle becomes impaired, so many muscles end up remaining at an inappropriate length and tone, which fuddles their neuromuscular control and enforces compensational posture and movement habits.
It’s important to remember the fact that it is the nervous system that dictates the length and tone of muscles, so simply employing traditional, static stretches for short, tight muscles without addressing the reason why those muscles are short and tight is unfortunately quite futile.
Other physiological imbalances
Moving on to a listing of common role players in the development of low-back pain that are apart from the previous mechanical or structural problems, dehydration alone can lead to the buildup of cellular waste, changes in pH levels, and alterations in enzyme function (all of which can incite inflammatory processes).
Because connective tissues (such as fascial and extracellular tissues) are normally very hydrated, a lack of water can make these tissues congeal and constrict (inhibiting organ motility, blood circulation, lymph flow, and neural flow), as well as forcing the body to pull water from cartilage depots (such as the articular cartilage surrounding joints of the spine).
Back pain may also surface from a seemingly simple parasitic infection or condition of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
Additionally, a toxic and backed-up liver can facilitate such pain and inflammation for many reasons, one of them being the liver’s role in the methylation of histamine.
A low histamine-methylation rate can lead to hyperactivity of the immune system and impairment in the healing of soft tissue.
Other effects of stress
Psychological stress is also a big problem outside of structural pathways as stress, by itself, easily induces intestinal inflammation and can damage the gut mucosa’s integrity in addition to lowering secretory IgA levels.
This of course promotes an increase in antigen exposure and an increase in the vulnerability of the GI tract, the respiratory tract, and genitourinary tract to microbial infection or colonization (such as H. pylori infection or Candida Albicans overgrowth).
Similarly, psychological and emotional stress can also predispose one to bacterial or fungal infection/overgrowth by simply increasing the degree to which bacteria and fungi can stick to the mucosal lining of the gut.
Persistent stress can also lead to exhaustion of the adrenal glands and a concomitant depression of cortisol release, which can facilitate an increase in inflammatory action as cortisol is a strong anti-inflammatory.
It should now be fairly clear why “physical therapy 101” for the correction of muscle or joint pain is so limited in its effectiveness.
The body must be approached from a holistic understanding if pain (especially low-back pain) is to be truly resolved.
I hope you found this article of some use in that regard and good luck in your health and fitness pursuits!