Is your back hurting? If so, you’re not alone. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke report that 80% of adults have, or will have, low back pain at some point in their life. Additionally, it is the #1 most common cause of job-related disability and a primary contributor to occupational absences. NIH conducted a large study and found that “more than a quarter of adults reported experiencing low back pain during the past three months.”
Low back pain varies in cause and presentation. I’ve heard everything from the show-off who “blew their back out” trying to carry a piano up the stairs to the unfortunate soul who injured themselves putting their socks on in the morning (this one is all too common). But, in reality, many cases of back pain don’t have a smoking gun. Millions of people notice their pain came on slowly out of nowhere and progressively gets worse.
It is no longer recommended by the CDC to treat chronic low back pain with medications. The current epidemic of opiate abuse has gained a lot of publicity lately and many physicians are now refusing medications to sufferers out of fear of dependency and abuse.
Regardless of the cause, if you’ve had it you know how uncomfortable to outright debilitating it can be. But what you do to help yourself? In many cases the answer is strength. Building up the muscles that make up your core (abdominals and back) will help support your spine and reduce back pain. So, are we going to lay around and wait until we’re a surgical candidate? I certainly hope not!
The Role of Abs and Back Muscles:
The spine is the support beam for the body and is vital to your infrastructure. It houses the central nervous system and every spark of information traveling to your body must first go through your spinal cord (essentially a superhighway of information).
The central muscular network that supports the spine are the muscles that make up your “core.” They keep the body upright and facilitate movement. When these muscles become deconditioned, the spine will become stressed, affecting its ability to support your body. Ultimately, the result of the chronic stress on the spine will be pain and eventually injury.
Exercise and strengthening the core is a great way to help yourself in the fight against back related problems. According to the NIH: “The first and most obvious goal is to improve or eliminate impairments in back flexibility and strength and improve performance of endurance activities. There is a large body of evidence confirming that this goal can be accomplished for a majority of patients with chronic low back pain. The second goal of exercise is to reduce the intensity of back pain. Most studies of exercise have noted overall reduction in back pain intensity that ranges from 10% to 50% after exercise treatment. The third goal of exercise is to reduce back pain-related disability through a process of desensitization of fears and concerns, altering pain attitudes and beliefs and improving affect. The mechanisms through which exercise can accomplish this goal have been the subject of substantial research.” – Exercise as a treatment for chronic low back pain. Spine J. 2004 Jan-Feb;4(1)106-15
So what exercises can you do?
There are dozens of exercises out there that will increase strength and flexibility of your core. A nice, simple list can be found by typing “mayo clinic exercise for back pain” into your Google browser. However, if you want my honest recommendation, find coaching! Newberry has some outstanding options for all different ages and fitness levels. My good friends Ryan and Caroline own Bear Arms Crossfit here in town. Ryan is fully certified and will tailor your strengthening routine to your specific needs. (FYI I’ve seen 94-year-old ladies to crossfit) Not sure if crossfit is for you? I know trainers at both the YMCA and Anytime Fitness that I can personally vouch for. Let them know ahead of time that you are trying to work your way to a healthy back.
Low back pain may also be a sign that something more insidious may be happening under the surface. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get your spine checked on a regular basis by a good chiropractor. If degeneration is taking place early detection and treatment will save you a world of hurt down the road (not to mention a small fortune in expensive treatments and surgeries). You have great options in town, use them!
I hope this information finds you well. If you have any questions or health concerns, please reach out. Our office number is 803-597-5099.
Dr. W.C. Verch runs Carolina West Clinic of Chiropractic, 1112 Calhoun Street, Newberry, you can reach him at 803-597-5099.