Lower back pain is a common health problem. It is so widespread, in fact, that 80 percent of Brits experience an episode of lower back pain at some point in their life.
Luckily, most of the time back pain isn’t caused by a serious medical condition. It normally gets better over time and without intervention. However, more complicated cases may require treatment such as manual therapy or medication.
Regardless of its severity, back pain can affect your ability to work, exercise, and do other everyday activities. Because of this it can take a considerable psychological toll on its suffers.
This is why it is important to learn some ways to manage – or avoid if possible – episodes of back pain. So read on and find out all about lower back pain: causes, treatments and management.
Lower back pain explained
Although identifying the cause of back pain can be difficult, most cases can be separated into two categories. The first of these categories is “non-specific”. This means there is no obvious reason for the back pain. The second category is “mechanical”. This is where problems with the joints, bones, or soft tissue around the spine cause pain.
The pain itself can also range from mild discomfort, to acute or chronic if it lasts more than three months.
With chronic back pain your doctor may recommend a scan. They may also prescribe a targeted exercise programme, acupuncture or Physiotherapy.
Common causes of lower back pain
Stress, lifting things awkwardly and poor posture can all lead to back pain. Some common medical conditions can also be to blame. These conditions include:
Sciatica (irritation of the nerve that runs from the lower back to the feet): this can cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness.
A slipped disc or herniation (a disc of cartilage in the spine pressing on a nerve): this can cause back pain and numbness, tingling and weakness.
Ankylosing spondylitis (swelling of the joints in the spine): this causes pain and stiffness that’s usually worse in the morning and improves with movement.
Spondylolisthesis (a bone in the spine slipping out of position): this can cause lower back pain and stiffness, as well as numbness and a tingling sensation.
Pelvic or sacral dysfunction: this usually presents itself as central low back pain or pain on one side of the lower back.
Facet joint syndrome: this involves pain at the joint between two vertebrae in your spine. This would usually cause pain on one side of the lower back.
Muscle strains and tears: with muscular problems, lower back pain tends to be one-sided.
Treatments for lower back pain
While non-specific and mechanical back pain are treated differently, general advice about managing back pain includes:
Visit a doctor: your doctor will be able to advise you on whether a scan or another form of treatment is needed.
Medication: using anti-inflammatory painkillers to help you manage your pain can be a good idea – but it is important to check that the medicine is safe for you to take first. Ask advice from a pharmacist if you’re not sure.
See a massage therapist: massage therapy can help to ease tense muscles and aid healing.
Meditate: studies show that meditation can help you tolerate pain better. It can also reduce stress and tension in the body, which in turn can help with pain reduction.
Stay active: it is important to continue with your daily activities as much as possible when suffering with an episode of lower back pain. Although it may feel difficult, keeping moving has been shown to help suffers heal more quickly.
Use heat: heat packs or hot water bottles can help ease the pain.
Work on your posture: avoid hunching over your desk or stooping when you walk.
Managing lower back pain
When it comes to managing back pain, The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recommends a combination of approaches and emphasises the importance of exercise as well as manual treatment. This ties in with an important US study, which showed that regular Yoga classes were very effective at relieving lower back pain.
According to the NHS website, Pilates exercises can also help back pain sufferers. If you’re injured or suffering with lower back pain, however, it is important to see a rehab-trained Pilates instructor who can prescribe exercises that are safe and beneficial for your condition.
The benefits of Pilates for lower back pain
Helps redistributes the forces in your spine
A stiff thoracic spine (mid-upper back) is something many people suffer with. It can cause, or exacerbate, lower back pain because a lack of mobility in the upper back generally means that lower spinal segments have to move more to compensate.
Luckily, many Pilates exercises improve mobility of the spine and are very effective at targeting the thoracic area. These exercises are designed to free up the segments of the upper spine so that they can do their job. This in turn takes some of the pressure off the lower back.
With dedication to your Pilates, these mobilising exercises, together with back strengthening work, will help improve your posture. Good posture will take pressure off your lower back. It should also help you avoid episodes of back pain in the future.
Targets the muscles that protect the spine
While there are many causes of back pain, studies show that weakening of the muscles of the trunk are a primary cause. Luckily, Pilates exercises are known for effectively strengthening the trunk muscles.
Pilates exercises, like bridging, also help wake up the local stabilisers muscles which are the muscles that work to support the spine. For those with back pain this can be particularly helpful as dysfunction in these muscles can cause pain and instability in the spine.
Teaches your spine to function optimally
An episode of lower back pain can lead to you over-recruiting the glutes and hip muscles, which can then create more tension and pain.
This is where Pilates exercises like footwork on the reformer come in handy. These exercises teach muscle disassociation at your hips – a way of moving in the most efficient and natural way without muscle guarding,
Suffering with lower back pain? Then why not talk to our specially trained instructors about how clinical Pilates can help you. Click here for more information.
Before participating in any exercise program that may be described and/or made accessible in or through our website, we strongly recommend that you consult with a physician or other healthcare provider.
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