A guide to the most common causes of back pain, and our best options to fix back pain for good!
We get asked all the time ‘how do I fix back pain?’, so let us start with some significant facts about back pain, specifically low back pain, then we will move onto the best back pain remedy options available right now. This is a long read, but worth the effort – let’s go!
Low back pain is the leading cause, worldwide of disability. It is estimated 540 million people are affected at any one time. There is worldwide concern about those who are suffering with back pain. The concern? That patients are receiving the wrong care – to not only the patient’s detriment but also the healthcare system. This means that many options offered to fix back pain on a population level become very expensive, and waste valuable healthcare resources.
What do the experts say about how to fix back pain?
University of Sydney Professor Chris Maher said “millions of people across the world are getting the wrong care for low back pain. The reality is a high proportion of patients are being treated in emergency departments, encouraged to rest and stop work, are commonly referred for scans or surgery, or prescribed pain killers including opioids, which are discouraged for treating low back pain. Aggressive treatment for low back pain has little proven benefit and has the potential to make things significantly worse. Evidence suggests that low back pain should be managed in primary care, with the first line of treatment being education and advice to keep active and at work.”
Monash University’s Professor Rachelle Buchbinder said: “The majority of cases of low back pain respond to simple physical and psychological therapies that keep people active and enable them to stay at work.” “There are safe and effective treatments for low back pain, the challenge is ensuring patients get the right care at the right time.” “A better understanding of low back pain, and changes to the way care for low back pain is delivered and reimbursed, are key to reversing the problems we see now.”
First Line of Treatment.
Most patients who visit their doctor for low back pain are prescribed a painkiller but are not provided with any advice or education on self-management in order to fix back pain longer term. Today we are going to provide you with some education around what pain actually is, the common causes of pain and what we can do to self-manage possible underlying issues instead of just treating the symptoms. Long term, manageable strategies with multiple components are the best plan to fix back pain for good.
Pain is a Symptom.
Typically, pain is an unpleasant sensation and emotional experience. It is also not always an accurate representation of what is going on in our bodies. Our nerve receptors send the signals to our brains when they sense something is wrong. We can then categorise pain into different boxes depending on how an individual person’s experience is. The timeline of your pain experience can be broken down into 3 categories:
- Acute pain
- Sub-acute pain
- Chronic pain
In terms of time acute pain can last for up to 7 days, sub-acute is between 2 days and 6 weeks whilst chronic pain is from 3 weeks to 12 months or more. Each stage of time is associated with the healing process.
Causes of Pain
Most causes of pain fit into 3 boxes – injury, musculoskeletal and unknown. There is also a small box called “other.” The ‘other’ box contains common pain causes like cancer and abdominal pain. Injury is self-explanatory. Musculoskeletal covers the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Unknown is a tricky box – did you have a sports injury years ago, it healed but now 10 years later something has popped up. Are they linked? Are they not? Hence the unknown.
Many cases of chronic pain can be difficult to place in just 1 box. Let us delve into our domain and talk about the musculoskeletal system and related pain. Also pain can be associated with inflammation in the body. Whether this be of the joints, the muscles – inflammation can cause pain.
Whatever the cause for you, our team can help find out what is wrong, and develop a plan to fix back pain in partnership with you.
The Musculoskeletal System
An organ system that enables an animal (human) to move, support itself and maintain stability during motion whilst protecting vital organs. This body system includes the body’s bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other connective tissue that support and bind the tissues and organs together. This system is our foundation. The skeletal system is our reinforcement bar in our construction.
Muscles keep bones in proper alignment and also play a role in their movement. Motion is possible thanks to our joints and cartilage surrounding our bones as well of course, as the muscles which contract or shorten to move the bone attached at the joint. It is assisted in this process by the tendons and ligaments. Think of tendons as the rubber bands. They are flexible and tough, made up of connective tissue and their purpose is to connect muscles and bones.
What are ligaments?
Ligaments are dense, white bands of elastic tissue. Ligaments are what connects the bones to form the joints. They help to limit the joint dislocation and restrict excesses movement. We also have these amazing things called bursae which work as cushions between the bones and tendons and or the muscles around the joints. They are small fluid filled sacs – like a water balloon to help everything glide smoothly and function as it should.
Why is our body like a house?
Now, if we think for a moment of our bodies like a house – we have the foundation and the reinforcement bars which help keep our foundation level and in turn keep our house level. What would happen if that reinforcement bar wasn’t there? Our foundation could become uneven, crack and cause problems for our house – water damage, uneven floors etc.
Our bodies are very similar in the sense that if we didn’t have a spine we wouldn’t be able to do the things we do and function as we do. If our reinforcement bar (spine) is crooked, broken, shaped a little differently or twisted – the foundation (our muscles etc) have to compensate for the changes so we can still function and move. This is where aches and pains come in and the body starts to react to the changes it can feel. Signals to your brain say, “hang on a minute, something is different” The body will adapt to the change to keep you moving. This is not always a good thing.
Depending on how your body needs to make these changes to keep you mobile can have a significant impact on your day to day. Moving well is a great way to prevent in the first place and fix back pain if it happens to you.
The Spine and Back Pain
There is a lot riding on your spine, being the main structural support for the body. It needs to not only keep you upright but also allow movement. Sometimes back issues can affect us immediately however, generally the pain develops over time due to our individual habits: Poor posture – sitting incorrectly at your work desk all day or behind the wheel of a truck, forklift or your car to and from anywhere. Repetitive motion – repeating the same movements over and over again – digging holes, laying tiles, or overdoing those deadlifts at the gym! Pushing, pulling and lifting things carelessly – moving house, gardening, unloading the groceries from your car – literally everything you do is some way, shape or form, will put pressure on your back.
The Spine is made up of 24 bones, stacked on top of each other called vertebrae. In between the vertebrae you can find the spinal discs which are cartilaginous joints which act also as ligaments to hold the spine together whilst also being shock absorbs for the spine, so your bones do not actually touch.
What does normal spinal alignment look like?
A healthy spine, when looked at from the side will be shaped like an “S”. Curving back to your shoulders, inward at your neck and also the small of your back. What is the spine home to? Your spinal cord! It keeps the network of nerves that run all over your body to your brain safe.
There are certain parts of the spine which bear more of your body weight than others and these tend to be the areas which cause the most problems, as you can imagine. These spots are the curve in the low back and the base of the neck.
Pain will generally come from the straining of the muscles surrounding the spine. Injuries from contact sports, accidents and falls can cause a range of issues with the muscles and spine ranging from minor strains to herniate discs to fractures that can damage the spinal column or spinal cord.
Sections of the Spine
The spinal code is divided into sections according to the nerve roots which branch off of them. They are:
- 8 cervical nerves (Neck)
- 12 Thoracic nerves (Mid back)
- 5 Lumbar nerves (Low back)
- 5 Sacral nerves (Pelvis)
- 1 Coccygeal nerve (Tail bone)
This is also how the vertebrae are grouped. Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar and Sacral.
There are 3 different types of back muscles which help the spine function. These are:
- The extensor muscles which are attached to the back of the spine and enable standing and lifting objects. The large paired muscles called erector spinae are located in the lower back and help hold you up and also attach to your gluteal muscles.
- The flexor muscles are attached to the front of your spine and allow flexing, bending forward, lifting and arching your lower back.
- The oblique muscles are attached to the sides of the spine and help rotate the spine and maintain posture.
Function vs Structure
As we grow, age and life our lives the function verses the structure of our musculoskeletal system changes. Degeneration of our spines and muscles over time is normal due to the aging process. However, in terms of back pain and problems we encounter in our lives this also has effect on the function and structure. An excellent example of this is our posture. When you read a good book or an article, get lost in a tv show our posture changes. We spend a lot of time looking down whether it be at our phones, our feet, avoiding eye contact with people.
Did you know? Our heads weigh up to 5kgs!
Our necks and upper back muscles support our necks/heads. Constantly looking down is placing a constant strain on our neck bones. The upper back muscles freak out “Quick the neck bones need our help. We must support the head, we cant let it fall off!” This stress and strain can lead to upper back pain cause the muscles are tired of having to hold your head up. Another example I have personally discovered recently and why my back pain seems so persistent is due to the lack of control and strength when it comes to my core muscles which should be the muscles turning on and activating when doing certain exercises at the gym. Instead, my lower back has been taking the full brunt of those deadlifts. Its tired and does not want to do it anymore.
Lumbar Spine, Pelvis and Hips
The lumbar spine region runs from under our ribs to the pelvis. Now, the pelvic area is a huge hitter when it comes to stabilisation throughout the body. The pelvis is strong and rigid. It connects the trunk and the legs. The pelvis supports and balances the trunk. It is a basin shaped complex of bones that consists of the hip bones which are connected to the sacrum in the back and the pubic symphysis in the front. Pelvis also has the sacrum and the coccyx. As well as being the bodies biggest support the pelvis also provides attachment for muscles and ligaments used for motion. Being the middle of the body and our biggest support having a weakened lumbar/pelvic area can be troublesome for us.
If our core stabilisation muscles are weak other muscles need to compensate for this in turn causing issues with the path of the spine and how the muscles now need to function to keep you moving.
How we can help ourselves
What is the first thing we do when we get a headache for example? We reach for the Panadol. Take as directed and hope the pain from the headache subsides. As mentioned in the beginning it is very common for pain killers to be prescribed by your doctor. We want to know why this pain is occurring, if there are underlaying factors contributing to the pain experience and provide education about things that can be done before or even to stop us reaching for that little medication bottle.
It is estimated that 1 in 7 Australians suffer from Arthritis. Arthritis is a chronic pain condition and the second most common cause of early retirement due to ill health. Click here for a quick read about joint relief for Arthritis. Regular movement throughout life is the best back pain remedy that there is. So get moving and get on the way to fix back pain today.
Do you have trouble sleeping? How do you sleep? This could also be contributing to your aches and pains. Click here for a quick read about sleeping positions and pillows which could benefit a lot! Stop waking up tired – get your sleep right and fix back pain the right way.
What about your job?
Do you have a desk job or drive for a living? Are you sitting correctly? Click here to find a quick video of stretches you can do at your desk/in the car to help with back pain due to long periods of sitting. A few simple stretches can help you fix back pain for good!
Are you a tradesman where you are doing a lot of lifting, bending, reaching? How solid is your foundation? Do you know how to activate your core properly? Taking that added stress away from your low pain. Click here to find the best ab exercises for low back pain. Strong abs are a strong back pain remedy for sure!
If we google “best back pain remedy” the top 6 actions you can take are:
- Keep Moving
- Stretch and Strengthen
- Keep Good Posture
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Quit Smoking
- Try Ice or Heat
All of these are affective, safe, holistic and natural approaches to aid, combat and relieve potential unlaying problems.
In order to help you keep moving, stretch, strengthen and keep good posture our Chiro and Massage Teams can help!
Chiropractic care is on the World Health Organisation’s List of therapies to consider as a back pain remedy before seeking out medical options such as medication or surgery. Medication will often cover up your pain = your symptom, but will not necessarily address the main cause of said problem. Please click here for more information.
Targeted Remedial Massage
Remedial massage is used to locate and repair damaged areas of the body and speed up the body’s own healing process. where possible. Pressure applied to specific points on the body encourage blood flow, can make joints more mobile and help to repair damaged tissues. The aim is to balance the length, tone and tension of the muscles and tendons to restore the bones to their correct movement pattern. Easing the muscle tension in the body can improve problems such as headaches, abdominal pain, low back pain and sciatic pain. This is an age old back pain remedy that has been used for 1000’s of years.
Check out this page for more information, tips and hints to help you fix back pain, and aid in your health journey. We all get one body so we need to take as good a care of it as possible – start today!