Hey there my fitness friends, John here and I’m excited to bring you a guest post by a good friend and kinesiologist Adam Morrella. Adam is a guru when it comes to injuries, rehab and really helping your body heal and stay healthy with exercise. One of his specialities is low back pain which is what he’ll be discussing today. And with that, heeerreeee’sss Adam!
As a 2 part series, I will first touch on the causes of Low Back Pain (LBP) with the second post discussing how specific corrective exercise can help improve the stability of our spine and decrease the occurrence of LBP.
Today, it is estimated that 85% of Americans experience low back pain. This is a staggering number and it is costing us billions of dollars in medical care. LBP can be a debilitating problem and not only affects us on physical level but it can do a number on our mental/emotional health as well.
LBP is the most common injury/problem I come across in the clinic. The lifestyle factors I have found to be the most common in the patients with LBP have been poor posture, high levels of overall stress, and dysfunctional core muscles.
Improper posture of the spine can be a major contributor to low back pain. Two common postural distortion patterns I often see are hypo-lordosis (flattening of the natural curve in the lumbar spine) and hyper-lordosis (excessive curvature of the lumbar spine). Both of these postures will lead to increase stress on the intervertbral discs. Recognizing these postural distortion patterns is very important when it comes to designing an effective exercise program to minimize LBP. For example, if someone has a hypo-lordotic spine (aka flat back), abdominal crunches may make their back worse. The same problems can occur with someone who has a hyper-lordotic spine. Exercises such as hanging leg lifts can contribute to the problem as opposed to the solution. Many of the clients I see are currently exercising and performing exercises that are detrimental to their low back. You must first understand the postural problem you have so you can then perform exercises that are beneficial and not harmful.
High levels of overall stress are another common thread amongst my LBP clients. Most of us think of stress as only being mental. That is not true. There are 6 primary forms of stress:
- 1) Physical (Poor posture, exercising too much or too little)
- 2) Mental (focusing on things you don’t want in life, verbal abuse form others, etc)
- 3) Chemical (synthetically manufactured medical drugs such as aspirin, pesticides on food, etc)
- 4) Electromagnetic (over exposure to sunlight, electronic devices, etc)
- 5) Thermal (anything that burns you, or brings your body temp too low)
- 6) Nutritional (eating improperly for your metabolic type, eating too much, too little, etc)
These 6 forms of stress all can inhibit the healing process of our bodies. When trying to lessen LBP we must consider all the factors that may be contributing to the problem. What I have found working in the clinic is that everyone’s LBP is different and that there is no one solution out there for everyone. But what I have also found is that the clients that look into lowering stress in all 6 areas have been by far the most successful in managing LBP.
Dysfunction in the core muscles is almost always present in clients with LBP. Your core muscles are designed to take load out of the spine and dissipate it into the musculature. In a nutshell, your core is designed to protect your spine and spinal cord. One of the first things I evaluate on a LBP client is the function of their core musculature. Not just the strength of the muscles, but also and maybe more importantly, the function and recruitment pattern of this group. The most common area of dysfunction is what I call the stabilization system of the core. This is composed of the deep muscles of the core that are designed to create segmental stability of each segment of the spine. If these muscles are not functioning correctly, the chances of injury are high.
In part 2 of my posting, I will discuss how exercise can help all the areas discussed above. Stay tuned.
Hey, John here again. Pretty good stuff and although it might be a little confusing at times, Adam is a great teacher so keep an eye open for part 2 where he attacks the meat and potatoes of exercises you can start using! Also, for those of you thinking, “hmm…I could probably use some instruction on this kind of thing” Adam will be holding a series of classes taking some of these principles in more depth and helping people individually. More on that to come.
Until then, rest those weary backs my fitness fanatics….but keep exercising!
Dedicated to your success,