Lower Back Anatomy
When the term ‘lower back’ is used, there is a common misconception that it is just one system or one muscle at fault when pain is experienced. In truth, there are many different lumbar systems in play and we will take you through them here today. Because this particular area of the body is so complex, it is almost impossible to directly pinpoint where lower back pain comes from but this information should give you a better understanding of how the area is formed.
Lumbar Vertebrae - Within the lumbar spine, there are five vertebrae at different junctions that sit above the sacrum. With these in place, muscles and ligaments can be connected to the lumbar spine while also protecting vital nerve roots as well as the spinal cord itself. Due to its location, between the upper torso and pelvis, any stress experienced can be magnified and frequent stress increases the likelihood of vertebral subluxations which is where misalignment occurs resulting in poor motion and potentially long-term damage.
Lumbar Facet Joints - With the facet joints, the lumbar spine is allowed flexion but with a smaller degree of rotation and extension. For those who experience repetitive back pain and even degenerative arthritis, this is likely to be the cause since it is under stress in large amounts from the rest of the body.
When experiencing a twisting motion or even rotational, this is when the facet joints are most commonly injured and this results in short, sharp pains concentrated in the same area as the joint. If this pain goes untreated for an extended period of time, it is likely to lead to arthritis. In severe cases, the joint can enlarge which then protrudes and impedes upon the nerve roots which causes tingling all the way down the leg, pain, numbness, and general back pain.
Lumbar Intervertebral Discs - Next up, we have the lumbar discs and these are used to connect adjacent lumbar vertebrae in addition to cushioning the spine and allowing a certain degree of motion between the different vertebrae. As seen earlier, this particular area is prone to high levels of stress and the 4th and 5th discs are more vulnerable than all the others combined.
If you have previously heard the term ‘sciatica’, this is where it originates because the sciatic nerve causes pain down the legs. With numbness, tingling in the legs, and pain, sciatica can be caused by herniations within the discs and this requires careful treatment in order to fix the problem correctly. Although rare, there is also a chance of compressing the spinal nerves with this health issue which, in turn, impacts the bladder and bowels since this is a motor control point. Therefore, it is vital that you pay attention to the symptoms that you’re experiencing. Without treatment, permanent loss of control is possible as well as other health problems.
Lumbar Spinal Musculature - In order for the torso to move as it does, the paraspinal muscles are required because they connect the spinal vertebrae and pelvis to the lumbar spine. As you can imagine, they are extremely strong to allow the required movement which also makes them prone to injury after being overworked. Rather than the sharp pains we have seen already, this pain is generally more of a dull ache in the lower back.
Sacroiliac Joint - Between the ilium bones and the sacrum, the sacroiliac joints can be found. If this is to blame for lower back pain, it is because the joints have become irritated or injured and this normally leads to pain in the affected area as well as the buttock and perhaps even the legs. Due to pregnancy and changing hormones, this problem is far more common in women; this is especially true later in pregnancy as the forming fetus adds pressure and increases stress on the body.
Lumbar Spinal Nerves - Finally, we have the lumbar spinal nerves and these can be found in the openings between the intervertebral foramina (IVF). In this area, there is a weak point because the IVF is extremely close to the fragile part of the spinal disc. Therefore, compression, irritation, and stretching will occur with disc injuries. At first, this doesn’t sound as bad as the other problems we have discussed here but the nerve roots are connected to the structures in the lower extremities which mean that compression and irritation will soon turn into tingling, pain, numbness, and even weakness in the legs. In truth, this can be caused by a number of issues ranging from disc herniations, arthritic changes to vertebrae joints, and even vertebral misalignment. In some rare cases, piriformis syndrome can also be a problem which is essentially muscle abnormalities.
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Lower Back Pain Symptoms
As we have already seen, lower back pain can be a nightmare but it can lead to different symptoms which helps to establish what the possible causes may be. With this in mind, we have paired the most common lower back pain symptoms of this health problem with their most likely causes.
Lower Back Pain Symptom #1: Pain Travelling to Buttock, Feet, and Legs - Commonly known as sciatica, this can lead to a number of the symptoms seen below;
- Normally only felt on one side of the leg or buttock
- When it is severe, the condition is like a burning rather than an aching sensation
- Pain exists over an extended period of time
- Can be felt more in the legs and feet than the back
- Has the potential to be joined by numbness and a weak feeling
- Gets worse after prolonged sitting or standing in one position
Common Cause: Lumbar Herniated Disc - Normally, the symptoms above are caused by a compression within the nerve root in the lower spine. Over time, this causes the discomfort from the buttocks right down to the feet. If found in younger generations, this could be for a number of reasons including isthmic spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease, and more.
Lower Back Pain Symptom #2: Severe Aching in Lower Back - Normally triggered by an activity, lifting something heavy, or a sudden movement, the symptoms here can be the following;
- Sore to the touch in the affected area
- A dull, achy pain
- Frequently moving from groin to the upper thigh; however, never moves lower than the knee
- Spasms in the muscle
- Too much discomfort when walking or even standing
Common Cause: Back Muscle Strain - When this type of acute discomfort is felt, a ligament or muscle strain is normally to blame. When we make sudden movements, lift something heavy, or sometimes even twist too fast, it can cause microscopic tears in the muscle or ligament. In some cases, a mild discomfort will be felt and, in more severe cases, this can range up to extreme discomfort. If not treated, it could become more problematic and spasms can occur.
Lowe Back Pain Symptom #3: Lower Back, Buttock, Groin Pain - For this, there could be the following symptoms;
- Pain can normally be relieved by shifting position
- A dull ache rather than a sharp pain
- Lying down can relieve the discomfort whilst prolonged sitting makes the issue worse
- As well as the lower back, the ache can be felt in the groin, hips, and thighs
Common Cause: Sacroiliac Joint Disease - If there is excessive movement or not enough within the sacroiliac joint, this can lead to dysfunction or disease. Essentially, this is the joints that see the hip connected to the sacrum at the lowest point of the spine.
Lower Back Pain Symptom #4: Deep Ache - For an ache that gets worse as you walk or stand, a combination of the following can follow;
- Pain can be alleviated when reclined
- Pain can radiate to the back of the thighs as well as the buttocks
- Hamstrings feel tight
- Bending backwards makes the problem worse
- Legs can feel tired, numb, or a tingling sensation which amplifies after walking
Common Cause: Isthmic Spondylolisthesis - Sometimes, a vertebra can slip in the lower back and it moves onto the disc space below which can cause this terrible issue. Sadly, it is now common and it causes instability in addition to compression which leads to nerve root pain. Often, the fracture can occur when a child but the discomfort is only felt after growing to young adulthood.
Lower Back Pain Symptom #5: Chronic Lower Back Pain - Finally, we have the symptoms for this issue that is normally made worse by certain movements or positions;
- At times, movement can feel better than staying still and this includes running
- When shifting positions, the discomfort is relieved
- Sitting for a prolonged amount of time makes the discomfort worse
- Whilst some cases are mild, others are more severe
- When the pain is constant, this can lead to back spasms
Common Cause: Degenerative Disc Disease - With this disease, people as young as 20 are often affected and it comes from a break down in the lumbar discs between the vertebra; inflammation then comes from the damaged disc. Over time, muscle spasms occur as well as sciatica. This being said, it is normally treated successfully as it is a common problem.
Lower Back Pain - Guide to Chiropractic Treatments
When it comes to treating lower back pain, most patients will be referred to chiropractic doctors because this is the long-term solution as opposed to medication which is largely short-term in covering the lower back pain. Nowadays, lower back pain chiropractic treatments have evolved somewhat and are now non-invasive, safe, and completely natural. In a recent report, the Canadian government even found that chiropractic manipulation was safer than medication because it avoids the potential of reliance upon pain relief and it treats the root cause of the problem.
Step One - Identification
Whenever you have any health problems, the first step will always be to identify the problem area. As soon as the issue has been diagnosed, only then can a treatment plan be developed to work on removing the problem. For the most part, lower back pain occurs because of vertebral subluxations, deconditioned and weak spinal musculature, poor posture, poor diet, spinal stress, lack of nutrition, or faulty spinal biomechanics. Sometimes, it can even be a combination of many of these conditions.
Step Two - Chiropractic Treatment
Although many people believe chiropractic solutions to be new, they have actually been around for over a century and perhaps even further than this. Rather than covering the pain with medication, chiropractic doctors will look to manipulate muscles and go through a process of spinal adjustment to relieve the problem. Over time, the results of chiropractic work have been undeniably strong and many say that not only does it remove pain but it also decreases muscle spasm, increases the range of motion within the spine, reduces inflammation, removes recurring injuries, and optimizes spinal biomechanics.
After seeing the success of chiropractic work, the US Department of Health and Human Services (AHCPR) released guidelines for the industry. With this, there are three main statements that apply to treatment;
- First, surgical intervention should now not even be considered without first pursuing chiropractic spinal adjustment and chiopractic manipulation.
- Second, medication such as steroids and antidepressants are now not recommended at all for treating lower back pain.
- Third, they say that it is now rare to see complications from chiropractic lumbar spinal manipulation.
Step Three - Removing Negative Techniques
If you have recently resolved a back issue or are looking for ways in which you can prevent such problems, this is the section for you because it is all about maintaining the correct techniques while removing bad habits. For example, posture is a big one and it pays to learn the correct posture in life to prevent health issues. Furthermore, you should be lifting heavy items correctly as well as knowing proper form if working out in the gym. If you have any questions whatsoever, your chiropractic doctor will be able to give you advice and even show you examples.
Step Four - Other Therapies
At first, it will be recommended you try the treatment we have suggested but there are other options if the chiropractic professionals feel as though they are necessary and they include trigger point therapy, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, massage, and acupressure therapy. Since these specialize in relaxing the lumbar muscles while improving the mobility of the lumbar spine, they should be beneficial to treatment.
Furthermore, most patients will be given a list of stabilization exercises that they can try at home instead of doing nothing in between treatments. With these, it is all about learning a neutral spine position so that you will be protected from future problems. If you manage to learn or ask for stretching techniques and other exercises, your treatment will be a lot quicker because you have ways of improving in the office and at home. If necessary, hot and cold applications may be required and this can go along with diathermy, interferential therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, and muscle stimulation.
Finally, it should also be noted that your diet will play a role in your spine’s health. If your body doesn’t receive the correct nutrients, it won’t be able to heal effectively after being stressed or injured and it will be a lot harder to stay in good shape overall.
Step Five - Maintaining a Healthy Back
Finally, the best solution is always prevention so we have some simple tips for keeping your back healthy in the long-term;
Exercise - After introducing a regular exercise program, the heart will remain in good shape and your spine will be allowed to stay strong. According to many reports, three times a week is the minimum amount with each session to last around 30-40 minutes. If you struggle to keep motivated, try to get family and friends involved.
Checkups - For some reason, we choose to visit the doctor for all sorts of other reasons but not to take care of our backs. If you want to stay healthy, you should visit a professional Fort Lauderdale chiropractor who will be able to perform spinal adjustments to prevent back pain from ever becoming a problem. Considering there are some vital nerves in and around this location, this one small tip could save you a whole world of pain and discomfort.
Diet - When we say diet, we don’t mean that you have to live for the rest of your life eating only vegetables but you should be looking to consume all the important nutrients since we use food for healing, growth, energy, and many other things.
Techniques - As mentioned previously, you should be able to safely nail every technique that requires you to put stress on your back. Regardless of whether it is working out or lifting boxes, this is important.
Sadly, lower back pain is one of those things that millions of people experience each and every year but it isn't something that you need to put up with. Instead, join others who have been helped through gentle chiropractic care. Not only will you relieve the lower back pain experienced right now, you will be setting yourself up for a healthier future!
Fort Lauderdale Chiropractor Dr. Barak Meraz has extensive experience and success in treating lower back pain. Call for an appointment in the Fort Lauderdale office (954) 350-0077.
Dr. Barak Meraz has opened a second office in Plantation, Florida. Call now for an appointment (954) 371-2170.
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