Lower back pain is one of the most common ailments in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that a whopping 70-90% of people will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives!
Lower back pain is classified into Acute or Chronic pain. Acute lower back pain is due to a specific injury, like a ruptured disc or a broken bone, and will improve if treated correctly within 12 weeks. Chronic lower back pain is pain that lasts for greater than 12 weeks. Chronic lower back pain is not always due to a specific injury, and this chronic pain is the largest cause of disability in Australia. So why do so many people develop Chronic lower back pain?
There are may theories as to why the human lower spine is a ‘weak point’ point. Structural engineers, to this day, can not figure out why we have our entire upper body weight going through a disc the size of a 50 cent piece. Evolutionists argue that we took about 100 million years to develop an efficient spine in all fours, but we have only been upright for the last 5 million years! To top it off, we are simply not biomechanically designed to sit, especially for eight hours a day or more!
Lets take a quick look at the anatomy of the lumbar spine. The intervertebral discs that sit between the bones/vertabrae are shock absorbers. They have a very poor blood supply and obtain all their nutrient exchange through a mechanical pump system. This system only works when you MOVE! This is why so many people get sore backs sitting all day or driving long distances – the waste products build up in the discs and the nutrients can’t get in.
There is another important issue with the Lumbar discs: they have very poor nociception, which is the ability to send pain signals to the brain. This means you can damage a disc doing incorrect lifts at the gym or gardening too long but not feel pain at the time. The pain is often not felt until a day or even two later when the inflammation builds up.
Other structures that can cause pain in the lower back are the facet joints (pictured above), the ligaments, nerves or muscles. It can be hard for a person to distinguish what structure is causing the pain, but your physiotherapist can help determine which one of these are part of your pain.
Physiotherapists can provide you with specific exercises, treatments and advice to help you with your lower-back pain. Every case is different, so it is important to get the right treatment and advice from a health professional.
Written by Karolina Nesterowicz