Back pain strikes most of us at one time or another in our lives and when it is of a chronic nature it can be debilitating to your social life and to your bank account. According to a recent article in Newsweek, “In 2005 Americans spent $85.9 billion looking for relief from back and neck pain through surgery, doctor’s visits, X-rays, MRI scans and medications, up from $52.1 billion in 1997, according to a study in the Feb. 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). That money hasn’t helped reduce the number of sufferers; in 2005, 15 percent of U.S. adults reported back problems—up from 12 percent in 1997.” So what is casing all this back pain?
Often times weak abdominals can be the culprit for back pain. The abdominals have attachments to the pelvis. These attachments help to keep the pelvis balanced during both static posture and movement. If the abdominals do not engage or do not stay engaged the pelvis then anteriorly rotates (tips forward). This rotation of the pelvis causes the musculature of the low back to shorten. If left in this position the muscle adopt this posture (see my previous post Practice Makes Permanent: Motor Engrams) and begin to report a position of strain to your brain and you are left with a constant sensation of pain until the muscles are returned to their proper length.
You may be wondering how your abdominals fail to function. There are a number of possibilities, but amongst the most common are: trauma, viscero-motor inhibition, and length-tension imbalances. Trauma can include surgery, childbirth, a fall, car accidents, really anything that produces enough force to activate the Golgi tendon organ which inhibits muscles as a safety response. If ones back pain is due to trauma often times manual therapy can provide relief by addressing any scar tissue and manually stimulating the dormant muscle tissue, this should be followed with a corrective exercise program targeting abdominal coordination, strength, and endurance.
Viscero-motor inhibition occurs when an organ is inflamed and inhibits the musculature that it shares innervations with. If you find yourself with consistent abdominal bloating, loose stool, constipation, or abdominal cramping to go with your back pain, you are probably suffering from viscero-motor inhibition. If you fall into this category you need to take care of your internal organs prior to attempting to address you muscular dysfunction. Getting tested for food allergies/intolerances is a good place to start.
Length-tensions imbalances tend to be the product of postural habits (see my previous post Practice Makes Permanent: Motor Engrams). If you fall into this category, an ergonomic assessment of your work place combined with a corrective exercise program based on your specific imbalances will get you on the road to recovery.
Keep in mind that if you are suffering from chronic back pain there are lots of treatment options out there and that it probably took a long time for you to develop you current condition and it is not going to change overnight, be patient and be consistent.
BS Exercise Science
CHEK Practitioner 2