How to overcome common back pain

Lower back pain is, unfortunately, often a fact of life. Just about everybody will suffer from it sooner or later. One of the main causes of back pain, whether acute or chronic, is lower back strain.  To explain this a little better, let us have a look at the human body and the various structures involved.

The anatomy of the spine 

The normal anatomy of the spine is usually described by dividing the spine into three major sections: the cervical, the thoracic and the lumbar spine (below the lumbar region is the sacrum which forms part of the pelvis).

Biomechanics is the study of forces and their effects when applied to humans. The lumbosacral spine is an important region of the body. The lumbar spine is positioned below the thoracic spine and consists of five vertebrae. The area below the lumbar vertebrae is called the sacrum and consists of five fused vertebrae.

The movements of the spine are flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion. These movements occur as a combination. The lumbar spine complex forms an effective load bearing system. When load is applied externally to the vertebral column, it produces stresses to the stiff vertebral body and relative elastic disc, causing strains to be produced more easily in the disc.

The muscles involved with lower back pain

These muscles include the large pared muscles in the lower back, the erector spine, which helps to hold up the spine, and gluteal muscles. The flexor muscles are attached to the front of the spine and enable flexing, bending forward, lifting and arching of the lower back.

A series of muscles and ligaments in your back hold the bones of your spinal column in place. You can strain these muscles by stretching them too far, causing tiny tears in the tissue. The muscles are then weakened and so consequently may not be able to hold the bones of your spinal column in place correctly. The spine becomes less stable, leading to lower back pain.

There are many muscles involved in the lower back that help to support the spine and the upper body. These include:

  • Extensor muscles (such as the erector spinae), 
  • the oblique muscles and 
  • the flexors (such as the psoas).

There are also many muscles involved in the gluteal group which help to support the sacrum and lumbar spine. The gluteus is composed of three muscles, all layered on top of each other: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medium and gluteus minimum. The muscles play a key role in facilitating daily activities, having a large influence on the movement and positioning of the pelvis and lower spine. Weak, under-active or tight gluteus can cause biomechanical imbalances in the pelvis and hips as well as instability in the lower spine. Tight gluteus can cause as much lower back discomfort as weak gluteus can. Consequently, overtraining of these muscles, or occupations that require prolonged sitting, can lead to tightness in the lower back area.

The piriformis muscle connects to the sacrum, the lowest part of the spine, to assist with the lateral movement of the thigh and stabilizing the lower spine. A common dysfunctional movement pattern,  prevalent in patients with lower back pain, is an overactive piriformis muscle that is compensating for underachieving gluteal muscles.

Above the pelvis, the muscles that can cause pain in the lumbar area are the hip flexors. The muscles sit lateral to the spine and muscles of the lumbar spine. In today’s world, human beings are sitting more than ever. As a result, the hip flexors are constantly forced into a shortened position leading to neutral inactivity, tightness and weakness.  

Symptoms of a pulled muscle in the lower back area

  • More back pain when moving and less when staying still.
  • Pain in the back, radiating down into the buttocks muscles but not typically extending into the legs.
  • The experience of muscle cramps or spasms in one’s back.
  • Trouble walking or bending, and difficulty standing up straight.

Lower back strain can be caused by

  • Extreme physical exertion.
  • Falling.
  • Bending or crouching repeatedly. 
  • Lifting heavy objects if you are not in shape.
  • It can also be caused by emotional stress, improper posture, being overweight or out of shape, or sitting in the same position for long periods of time. Even a severe cough can result in lower back strain!

What is the treatment for lower back strain?

  • Ice your back.
  • Apply heat to your back – but only 2-3 days after icing first. A highly effective product to use is Deep Heat Spray. Deep Heat Pain Relieving Spray can be used before and after exercise and contains ingredients that provide pain relief plus heat. Heat therapy helps to stop increased blood supply that helps to relax aching and overstretched muscles, re-oxygenating the tissue to help stimulate the natural healing process. 
      • The benefits of Deep Heat Spray:
          • Fast relief from rheumatic pain, muscular aches and strains.
          • A fast relieving and warming spray to be used on the skin.
          • Highly recommended for use in the relief of pain in muscles, tendons, joints or bones, lower back and thigh pain, sprains or strains. 
  • Make use of back support.
  • Seek physical therapy. 
  • Maintain good muscle tone in your abdominal and lower back muscles.
  • Take medication prescribed by a doctor.

Studies have shown that bed rest doesn’t work. After taking it easy for a day or two, you should usually resume light physical activity.

We recommend the general strengthening of the core and abdomen, and regular mobilization of the spine through movement. Make sure you have a can of Deep Heat Spray close to assist you in fast acting, self-applying heat therapy for those difficult-to-reach places. 

Article written by EPT – The Ultimate Sports Recovery Experts