General Causes and Mechanics of Low Back-pain
Lower back pain, also known as lumbo-sacral pain, can be categorized as slow onset pain or sudden onset pain. The slow onset low back-pain can have a complex set of cascading causes. Two common starting points of slow onset low back distress are severe muscle and fascia tightness (of the calves, hamstring, gluteal and muscles of the low-back spinal area), and impaired muscle synergy in the legs from weakened quadricepcs and rectus femorus muscle groups. Tightness of posterior leg muscles, if untreated, can lead to tightening of the lowback, which in turn leads to increased structural lordosis or spinal curve. At the level of the low-back spinal vertebrae, this lordosis translates into compressive forces exerted upon the disks, usually upon the posterior half of the vertebral disk. This may cause various degrees of squeezing affect on the disks that now may extrude out of the inter-vertebral space. A person may experience grades of pain depending on the degree of spinal disk extrusion.
In the sudden onset low back-pain, the etiology is usually from a combination of muscle deconditioning from insufficient muscle-specific exercises and poor bodymechanics during specific tasks such as lifting, pulling, or pushing a load. In the sudden onset pain, the muscles of the low-back are unprepared to handle the load and as such the forces bypass the muscles and impact the ligaments which are less elastic and hence prone to strain. If muscle deconditioning is severe enough, the load excessive, and bodymechanics poor, then even the ligaments can give, and the forces will now impact the spinal disk. At this stage the outcome is similar to that of the slow onset low-back-pain described above.
Postures for Back Maintenance
Here are a few simple postures for back health maintenance: Modified cobra posture, modified locust posture, modified staff posture, gentle hamstring stretch. In this article we will focus on the Modified Cobra Posure: Lie on a yoga mat on your stomach, place your feet together and with toes pointed. Place your arms beside you, elbows tucked in and with palms down. Place your head down on the mat. Breath in with forehead on the mat. Then as you breath out push head, neck and upper trunk up, arching up gently. At this stage, hold posture and inhale and exhale several times. Start with five inhalations and exhalations. Then as you exhale lower body back to ground. Repeat posture five times then roll over on to your back to rest.
Therapy for low-back pain can be specific such that the affected structure of the low-back can be brought to relief. This requires an evaluation of the source of pain by a specialist therapist.
Nandu Menon is a Physical Therapist, a Yoga Teacher and author. He practices at Concord Yoga and Physical Therapy where he specializes in decompession therapy.