MORE THAN 80% OF ADULTS HAVE HAD BACK PAIN
This post was triggered by a detailed email we sent to a recent patient of ours detailing how to approach low back pain. We’ve figured that the rest of our audience could also benefit from learning about SELF-TREATMENTS FOR ACUTE BACK PAIN. After all, more than 80 percent of adults will have it at some point in their lives.
WALKING ON TWO LEGS AND SITTING CAUSE BACK PAIN
The most radical view holds that the REAL REASON FOR LOW BACK PAIN is … repetitive spine loading and bending. Our spine, they argue, was not “designed” for bipedal locomotion - meaning using two rear legs for walking - or worse, spending hours every day in a seated position. Both “sins,” they argue, put undue pressure on the intervertebral (spine) fibrocartilage discs that lie between adjacent bones (vertebrae) of the spine. As a result, these discs eventually degenerate (fail) resulting in disc protrusion(s). The material extruded from the discs presses against the spinal nerves, causing symptoms, such as:
- Back pain that gets worse with coughing, sneezing, or straining.
- Muscle spasm which puts additional pressure on the spine by flattening the natural lumbar curve (lordosis).
- Sciatica, that is “pain” (numbness, tingling, burning, etc.) running down the nerve - from the spine into the buttock(s), down the back of the leg(s), possibly all the way to the toe(s).
Above symptoms worsen with bending over or sitting down.
In extreme cases, a full-blown disc herniation can result in leg weakness and even loss of bowel and bladder control.
The exact nature of the symptoms will depend on location/degree of the disc bulging/herniation.
OFF-LOAD THE SPINE TO TREAT BACK PAIN
Well, it's natural to think that if continuous standing and flexion (bending forward) causes back pain then off-loading the spine and extension (bending backwards) should reverse the process and alleviate (even heal) back pain, especially if the disk disease (protruding, herniation) is acute/recent.
BEND OVER BACKWARDS FOR YOUR BACK
We could think of several ways of giving your spine a rest:
1) Lying on the stomach - Nothing new here!;
2) Crawling on all fours - Sound weird but really works, we tried it;
3) Traction - Requires some external help (but the Internet is swamped with contraptions purporting to do exactly that);
4) Hyperextending the spine and freeing up the nerves - See THIS video.
GOING BEYOND IBUPROFEN
Which particular technique you decide to use is, in our opinion, not that crucial. Some swear by the McKenzie method (MDT). Others had good results with Lumbar Extension Traction (LET). The key points here are a) the active involvement of the patient in his or her care (aka “self-empowerment”), and b) the actual spine extension/traction resulting in the biomechanical decompression and healing (reabsorption of protrusion) of the damaged disc. The rest is a matter of personal taste.
NOT ALL BACK PAIN IS CREATED EQUAL
Now … this is absolutely not to claim that all back problems are caused by a disc disease. There are certainly other causes of back pain that should NOT be treated by extension/traction. Also, the above-mentioned techniques have been mostly effective in ACUTE back pain. Once the pain becomes chronic, it’s now more than just a disk … which is a topic for another blog.
BUT … since, most back issues ARE caused by a garden-variety disc disease, and the risks of trying some sort of extension-traction low, why not give them a try? If you find them helpful … well, here you go! If not, there always are injections and surgery … not that we wish those on anybody :)
Picture courtesy of DOI: 10.1589/jpts.29.2051