Lower back pain is one of, if not the most, common reasons patients visit physiotherapy. In fact, the World Health Organization mentions that up to 45% of adults will experience an episode within the year.
For some people, it’s a temporary ache that eases up after a few weeks. Whilst others will experience chronic and disabling pains. These types of pain can derail lives and significantly impact the quality of life.
While band-aid solutions, like massages or heat packs, can temporarily relieve pain, low back pain can often come back with a vengeance.
Understanding the causes of your back pain is essential for finding a long-lasting solution.
With years of experience, we have noticed several surprising yet common causes of lower back pain.
Two exercises you can do to strengthen a weak bottom
Listed below are 5 of these causes and some simple tips to help.
1. Weak and stiff bottom muscles (also known as glute amnesia)
Our bottom muscles (e.g. gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, etc.) are one of the strongest groups of muscles in our body. Their most common role is to drive powerful movements, such as running or squatting. Another less mentioned (but equally important) function is to provide stability to the lower back region. Many people with lower back pain often have troubles moving and activating their gluteus muscles. Without proper control of these muscles, the back can begin to compensate and become painful.
Solution: Strengthening your bottom muscles through specific exercises, which can be viewed here.
2. Worrying too much about posture
“Keep your back straight!”
To prevent back pain, family, friends, and even health professionals will recommend maintaining an upright posture. For many people this is useful advice, but this is not always the case. Many people who walk into our clinic with low back pain arrive with stiffness and tightness. Being encouraged to keep the back straight actually creates tension and guarding along the back muscles. The problem can be a result of being in sustained positions for too long.
Solution: Locking your back into an extended position for long periods is often unhelpful. If you find yourself in this situation, attempting deep breathing techniques, gentle exercises and changing your position frequently may help. If you’re in pain and not sure about what to do, please seek the assistance of one of our experienced physiotherapists.
3. Being inactive
Physical activity, such as walking or playing sports, has a whole range of benefits. Examples include increasing muscle endurance, reducing the risk of cardiovascular conditions (e.g. stroke, heart disease, etc.), improving mental health and even preventing lower back pain. A large study by Alzahrani et al. (2019) found that those who performed just a moderate amount of physical activity had a significantly lower risk of back pain. They found that between 12 to 21 Metabolic Equivalents (METS) per week alone is enough. This equates to roughly 3-5 hours of gardening or 4-8 hours of brisk walking a week.
Solution: Performing small amounts of physical activity alone is enough for preventing low back pain. Try a variety of activities that you enjoy to keep yourself interested.
4. Underestimating repetitive tasks
Another cause of low back pain that we see in the clinic are people who underestimate repetitive tasks. Even though activity may seem gentle by nature, too much of anything is still too much. As an example, have a look at our article about gardening and low back pain. While considered a light activity; it often requires a great deal of repetitive twisting and bending.
Solution: Although we always promote physical activity, performing too much of specific movements can be stressful on the back. Strategies such as pacing yourself, strengthening your muscles and having an efficient technique are encouraged.
5. Psychological Factors
Over the last decades of research, scientists have noted that psychological factors, such as stress and anxiety, can contribute to low back pain. Being distressed can change how you perceive pain and can amplify your discomfort. This is comparable to the volume dial on your radio. The more stress and anxiety you experience, the louder the pain can become.
Solution: Managing psychological distress can be challenging. However, strategies such as mindfulness, sufficient sleep and deep breathing relaxation techniques can be beneficial. And you should seek assistance from a medical professional if this is an ongoing issue for you.
At Move Better for Life, we want to get to the root cause of your lower back pain. If you’re still struggling with stiffness, pain or reduced mobility, please contact us today. Our team of physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and occupational therapists will tailor a solution for you. For more information, please make a booking here.