Back pain is a growing concern for all. It’s estimated that 1 in 6 Australians currently suffer with back pain, chronic pain has now become the biggest source of disability of which 49% is attributable to back pain and up to 95% of Australians will at some stage suffer with back pain.
With such an epidemic of back pain in our country it’s no wonder everyone has an opinion on what you should. But are there things you’re doing right now that might be creating your problems, which are easily resolved, don’t require any form of treatment and may actual stop your pain altogether.
Understanding lumbar spine biomechanics
The lumbar spine is an interesting area of the spine. It really doesn’t like extension. When we extend, especially under strain, force is applied to the lower part of our spine. This force often has a translation force that moves the vertebrae forward.
To prevent this, our core stabilizing muscles activate resisting this movement preventing damage from occurring.
A big problem with this mechanism though is what is known as reciprocal inhibition. Reciprocal inhibition occurs when a muscle moving a limb in one direction contracts causing the muscle that performs the opposite action to relax.
An example of this is if you bend your elbow, the muscles that straighten your elbow must relax to allow the movement to occur.
When we look at this action in the lower spine, if we are contracting the lower back muscles to help us extend, the result is that we relax our abdominal muscles in the process. The effect is a loss of support for the translating movement occurring at the lower part of the spine.
But when do you do this…?
A common problem for those lifting is not the lifting process. We’ve all heard it before, bend your knees, don’t use your back, make sure you lift correctly etc…
The reality is these very rarely create problems in functional individuals.
The bigger issue seems to be what do you do once you’re actually standing up…
Once upright, many people will lean back to counter balance the weight they’re carrying. This seems to result in contraction of the back muscles to counter the weight, extension of the lower spine creating translation and reciprocal inhibition of the abdominals (stabilizers).
We see this often happen with parents carrying children, people carrying boxes and others lifting items onto higher areas such as trucks and shelving.
I see patients all the time who have watched videos or been given stretches that involve extension. We even see some really great Yoga poses that involve this action as well. The biggest problem with these poses is again reciprocal inhibition.
If we arch back, keeping the lower spine on the ground and bend from the middle of our lumbar spine whilst keeping our core activated this results in stability.
Most people however fail to do this, bend from the lower part of their spine creating an extension pivot point rather than a nice smooth extension curve.
The result is again translation of the L5 and irritation to the iliolumbar ligaments.
Working above head
For those who work above head such as painters, working at a 45 degree angle ahead allows for nexk extension and the ability to see what you’re doing.
When we shift this to directly above the head we need to extend our lower spine in order to see directly above.
Once again this results in extension and unsupported translation creating irritation to the iliolumbar ligament again.
So why is the iliolumbar ligament so important?
In short, the iliolumbar ligament helps to regulate and control the movement of your pelvis to the lower part of your spine.
When it becomes dysfunctional we often see broad diffuse pain across the lower back of an achy nature. In some circumstances an acute sprain can create one sided deep pain that can lead to sciatica.
Prevention is always easier than cure and with the current stats on the number of people suffering with back pain becoming so alarming high it’s becoming more obvious that our standard lifestyle is creating issues for more and more people.
If you’re unsure whether your back pain may be from an underlying iliolumbar ligament problem, give us a call on 93187758 or click here and we’ll be happy to help you to identify the cause of your problem with our full functional lower back pain assessment.