Chronic low back pain can be debilitating! Need tools to cope? We’ve got your back!

Prevalence and Risk Factors

Chronic low back pain is among the most prevalent of musculoskeletal conditions—80% of adults in the Western world will suffer from it at some point in their lifetime. Its incidence increases in one’s thirties, reaches its climax between ages fifty and sixty, and finally stabilizes after seventy.

Smoking and obesity are the most significant risk factors in developing chronic low back pain. Sedentary lifestyles and office-centered careers may cause the weakening of back and abdominal muscles, which will eventually lead to chronic low back pain.

Women are more prone to developing chronic low back pain relative to men due to specific loads on the musculoskeletal system such as pregnancy, childcare, homemaking, office-centered careers, and lean muscle mass. Degenerative changes in the paraspinal muscles and poor coordination of those muscles will lead to chronic low back pain.

 

Can It Be Treated?

Yes. Are there non-surgical avenues? Also, yes. In many cases, conservative treatment is the simplest, safest, and most effective. The treatment of chronic low back pain consists of four main components: general physical activity, proper posture, core muscle strengthening, and spinal flexibility.

General Physical Activity

Studies show that walking at a fast pace while gradually increasing incline activates the lower back muscles and over time improves the stabilization of the torso. Also, walking for at least 150 minutes a week reduces the risk of heart disease!

 

Proper Posture 


Computer Ergonomics:

  • Your computer should be placed on a desk.
  • It is recommended you sit on a chair designed for office work — do not work from a sofa, armchair or bed!
  • Create an angle of 90°-105° between your torso and thighs.
  • Knees should be bent at an angle of 90° with yours legs fully rested on the floor.
  • The table should be at elbow height with elbows bent at 90°.
  • Separate the screen from the keyboard and mouse, if possible.
  • Raise the screen so that the top edge is at eye level.
  • If the computer is a laptop, it is preferable to choose a carrying case with straps over both shoulders as opposed to one shoulder.
  • It is advisable to get up and move once every half hour, with an emphasis on taking a short walk and stretching your back.

Lifting Objects Off the Floor:

  • Keep the object close to the body throughout the motion.
  • Keep your back upright, without bending or turning to the side.
  • The movement from bottom to top is done mostly from the extension of the thighs and knees. Your back should remain mostly static throughout the ascent.

Core Muscle Strengthening

The core muscles are located deep in the torso and extend from the base of the head to the pelvis. The goal of strengthening the muscles in the pelvis, lower back, thighs and abdomen is to train them to function properly and thus lead to better balance and stability.

Here are some exercises to strengthen your core muscles:

Spinal Flexibility

Spinal flexibility is an integral part of treating lower back pain. The vertebral joints and supporting tissues degenerate and cause stiffness, which leads to a limited range of motion in the torso. In order to improve the spine’s elasticity and thereby, these ranges, back stretches should be performed daily.

The following are stretches to flex the spine:

Take-Home Message: 

These are some simple steps in reducing low-back-related pain. In general, stretching, exercise and maintaining proper form during strenuous activity are important factors in staying healthy and preventing or alleviate pain throughout your body. With these tools you can understand and manage your chronic back pain and eventually return to participating in hobbies, work, and activities of daily living!

Citations

[1] Meucci, R. D., Fassa, A. G., & Faria, N. M. X. (2015). Prevalence of chronic low back pain: systematic review. Revista de saude publica49, 73.

[2] Suh, J. H., Kim, H., Jung, G. P., Ko, J. Y., & Ryu, J. S. (2019). The effect of lumbar stabilization and walking exercises on chronic low back pain: A randomized controlled trial. Medicine98(26).

[3] Wang, X. Q., Zheng, J. J., Yu, Z. W., Bi, X., Lou, S. J., Liu, J., … & Shen, H. M. (2012). A meta-analysis of core stability exercise versus general exercise for chronic low back pain. PloS one7(12), e52082.

[4] Straker, L. M. (2003). A review of research on techniques for lifting low-lying objects: 2. Evidence for a correct technique. Work20(2), 83-96.

[5] https://www.osh.org.il/uploadfiles/work_near_computer_joan.pdf

[6] https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults