Working with many young men and women I am finding that too many are having back injuries or weakness of the back muscles at a very young age. I thought i’d outline some possible causes of back pain and injuries and also share my own experience.
I had a slipped disk 2 years ago which has only healed as of this year. Slipped or bulging disks usually take 2 years to heal properly. At the time of the injury, my doctor was very thorough in having me do a MRI scan. On having the scan we saw that my disk was pressing on my spinal cord causing a considerable amount of pain, and sciatica (nerve pain down the leg as a result of pressure on the sciatic nerve). My GP told me I should see a surgeon to consider an operation. An operation?! Seriously?... I was 30 years old and the last thing I needed was an operation which would eliminate me from being able to do allot of normal activities and exercises in years to come. I asked the doctor for options and he reluctantly passed me onto a Physiotherapist. He also advised that if I couldn’t feel 80% better within a month to see the surgeon. Challenge accepted! I spent the next month doing physio exercises and stretches and changing my usual exercise routine. No more heavy leg sessions and no more barbell squats! It took time, setbacks, a few more massages than normal, allot of Voltaren and great amount of perseverance but NO SURGERY!
The point to my story is, look at your options. I do believe that Dr’s have a place and are very useful, but I also believe that all too often that diet and exercise is pushed aside. Or heavy pain killers are easily passed out. Pain killers will mask your pain, not improve the cause.
Here’s a few possible causes of back pain.
1- Dehydration - Up to 80% of back injuries are caused by dehydration. When dehydrated, our muscles can become tight and collect lactic acid. What happens when muscles are tight is they pull on bones that they are attached to, and boom, injury! So if you suffer from back pain, try increasing your water intake. It may not be an instant improvement and may take up to a month to notice changes but it’s cheap and will improve your health if nothing else.
2 - Belly Button Rings - I know this one sounds strange but I also had a belly button ring and i’ve now taken it out and my back and core strength have improved. Metals are conductive and also excite the autonomic nervous system, causing organs to become inflamed and confused. This then can cause the core muscles to switch off or not work properly. Weak core leads to back pain or injury. It’s not a coincidence that many girls with belly piercings have also got back injuries. If you have a belly button ring, test taking it out and exercising and see the difference in your core strength. You may also notice that any digestion issues that you have will improve too. Cheap metals can also seep into the body and cause heavy metal poisoning which is even worse and can take years to fix. If you really can’t live without your piercing, just put it in for special occasions and use non conductive rings.
3 - Tight muscles surrounding the back - Tightness or inflexibility of the hips, hamstrings and calves lead to back pain and in time injury. These could also be caused by the dehydration that we spoke about earlier, or just from being inactive. Many people these days have jobs where they need to sit at a desk for long durations. This causes the muscles of the hips to shorten and the back muscles become tight. Good news is that these can all be fixed by including a good stretch program into your daily routine. If you have tight muscles causing an imbalance in the body, you need to spend time each day stretching them to improve the overall balance. Also, get up from your desk regularly and go for a walk.
4 - Muscle weakness - As sitting down causes tightness, it also causes weakness in other muscles. Glute (aka your BUTT) and core weakness is also a common cause of back pain and injury. When we sit down our core muscles go ahhh, i’m off shift. So again this can be fixed by including Core and Glute strengthening into your exercise routine. Functional exercises like squats, glute bridges and lunges are a great addition to a weak glute complex. Lying clam shell exercises are a favourite of mine to improve the glute mead which can get a little lazy too.
5 - Poor posture - Hunching or slouching can lead to back pain. Think of all of your muscles being connected. They all meet somehow through another, so if one is weak it will cause another to work more. So weak upper back muscles cause us to lean forward and puts stress on the lower back. Again this can be fixed by including strength exercises for the core and upper back muscles. Rows or a move where you are pulling a weight towards you help to strengthen the back. Usually combined with weak upper back is a tight chest. This can also be caused by leaning over a desk all day. Again, get up, stretch and move!
6 - Stress - A major contributor to illness and injuries is stress. Lower back pain can often become worse when having money issues in particular. When stressed we tend to breathe less or shallower. Breathing less lowers the oxygen provided to the body and increases the buildup of biochemical waste products in the muscles. As we spoke about before, this causes inflammation and your core muscles don’t work as they should. Stress can be managed. You can’t always change your situation, but you can change your reaction to it. Ways to decrease stress. Take a 20minute walk, meditate, play your favourite music, exercise, get beck to nature and take your shoes off to feel the ground, talk to someone who can help or do any of your favourite stress free activities including a glass of wine if that helps YOU.
7 - Inactivity - Often when we have an injury we think we need to do nothing so it heals. People become afraid to do normal daily activities for fear of worsening the injury. This often leads to inactivity which causes a certain amount of atrophy in the muscle, when in fact those muscles really need strengthening. If you don’t use it, you lose it! A good exercise program written by an exercise professional will not only improve your atrophic muscles but also get you back doing your normal activities and maybe even more than you did before!
I hope this helps explain some of the possible causes of back pain and injury. Reading these articles will only help if you take the information and try it out for yourself. Most of the things I have listed you can try straight away, so get up, get moving, stretch, breathe and fill your water bottles!