Back Pain

If you have never had back pain, odds are you will.  The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in a lifetime 60-70% of people will suffer from back pain.  Back pain can range from minor to severe, and is one of the most common reasons for missed work and lost productivity.  The good news is, most back pain can be managed non-surgically, the bad news, if you’ve had it once, you’re more likely to have it again.

Physical Therapy can be an excellent first resource when dealing with back pain or injury. The professionals at U-District can assess your movement, determine your strengths, weaknesses and imbalances and create a tailored program to get you back in the game!

Anatomy of the Back

The back itself is incredibly complex, and made up of multiple small joints called vertebral segments that each contribute to mobility. The spine is composed of three regions: the cervical, thoracic and lumbar.  The spinal column sits atop the sacrum and coccyx (tail bone) which form a joint with the pelvis called the sacroiliac joint (SI). 

Nerves and Discs

Problems in the back don’t always present as back pain, some back injury’s cause pain down the leg and even into the foot.  Each segment of the spine is separated by a disc which helps with shock absorption.  After a trauma the disc can bulge or rupture and place pressure on nerves that come out of the spine.  Pressure on a nerve can cause pain, weakness, numbness or tingling anywhere the nerve travels.  The nerves of the low back innervate the lower half of the body, so even weakness in your foot, or tingling in your toes could be linked to the back.

Keys to Back Health

Due to the complexities of the back, it’s not always easy to come up with a clear diagnoses.  Each case of back pain can be slightly different.  Even though the cause or exact diagnoses might not be clear there are things we know can help decrease pain and reduce injury. My tips for back health: Core, posture, hip mobility and strength. Core strength is critical, the ability to stabilize around the back is key. 

Posture is a must, without the appropriate curves in the spine and maintaining those curves with adequate posture the back cannot do it’s job effectively.  Hip mobility is also important, when the hips tighten up we put more stress on the back to achieve the ranges of motion the hips used to give us.  For example a golfer who has lost rotational motion in the hips, will try to make up for that in the spine and is putting the back at risk.  The entire body is linked, weakness, poor flexibility or an imbalance in one place can lead to injury and break down in another.  The back is affected not only by the legs but also the upper body as well.