If it is one thing we have established so far this month, it is that it takes multiple interventions to help with chronic pain, and that is because there are many factors at play. Depending on the origin and cause of each person's pain point, different treatments may be appropriate.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), low back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability. At least 80 percent of Americans will experience low back pain in their lifetime.
Most low back pain is the result of an injury, such as muscle sprains or strains due to sudden movements or poor body mechanics while lifting heavy objects. It can also come from other sources such as cancer of the spinal cord, a ruptured or herniated disc, sciatica, arthritis, kidney infections or infections of the spine.
Low back pain is more likely to occur in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. This is partly due to the changes that occur in the body with aging. As you grow older, there’s a reduction in the fluid content between the vertebrae in the spine.
This means discs in the spine experience irritation more easily. You also lose some muscle tone, which makes the back more prone to injury. This is why strengthening your back and core muscles and using good body mechanics are helpful in preventing low back pain.
See our video on Lower Back Pain from our Pain & Inflammation Live Series.
What does the research say about Exercise and Low Back Pain?
Geneen et al. performed a systematic review of 264 research studies using exercise as an intervention for chronic pain. The review included almost 20k subjects and covered the following conditions:
💥 Rheumatoid arthritis
💥 Low back pain
💥 Intermittent claudication
💥 Mechanical neck disorder
💥 Spinal cord injury
💥 Postpolio syndrome
💥 Patellofemoral pain
Workouts included: strength training, stretching, range of motion, core, balance, yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and cardio. Results of the analyses support that exercise improves pain severity and physical function resulting in improved quality of life, with few adverse effects.
Similarly, Searle and colleagues performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of 39 randomized controlled trials. Exercises included coordination/stabilization, strength/resistance, cardiorespiratory and combined. The results showed that exercise interventions reduce low back pain, yet cardio had the lowest effect.
The bottom line, it is going to take both stretching and exercises to create the right mechanical changes to support a healthy back. Another key component is is mindfulness - awareness of your posture, how you're sitting, how you're driving, how you're sleeping, etc.
Here are some tips:
✨ Strengthen the glutes - you can clench while seated, squats over a chair, or bridges.
✨ Strengthen the core/transverse abs - hug the abdominal muscles in toward the spine as if you're zipping up tight clothes.
✨ Strengthen adductors (inner thigh) - Squeeze the legs together; use a block, ball, pillow, fist, etc.
✨ Stretch - cat/cow which can be done seated
✨ Seated spinal twist
✨ Tune into your gut health - they're related!
✨ Research suggests a regular routine that includes coordination/stabilization, strength/resistance has positive results with reduced pain and increased functioning for chronic low back pain.
Acupressure & Low Back Pain
Acupressure is similar to acupuncture which releases energy along meridian energy channels, but instead of needles you use fingers to massage pressure points.
Results from a recent study showed positive improvement in pain in acupressure groups compared with usual care. Pain was reduced by 35–36% in the acupressure groups. Improvement in fatigue was also found in stimulating acupressure compared with usual care. Adverse events were minimal and related to application of too much pressure.
Watch our video below for a demonstration on how to perform self-acupressure for chronic low back pain.
We'll be taking a deep dive into finding the source of and treating chronic lower back pain in our Love Your Lower Back virtual workshop on 6/24/20. Presenters: Dr. Dana Gulati, DOM, Christine Camara, LMT, Holistic Health Coach, Alyssa Knapp, MS, Certified Exercise Physiologist.