What Causes Low Back Pain?

When a patient comes into the office with a problem, first and foremost they want to get rid of that problem and feel better. (Obviously!)

The second thing many patients want, however, is to know why they had the problem in the first place, and what they can do to prevent it from happening again.

Sometimes, explaining the why of a problem, though, is not a simple matter.

Let's take low back pain as an example.

When you go into most chiropractic offices, they'll explain something to the effect that a vertebrae or part of the pelvis has become misaligned, and that this misalignment affects the nerves coming from the region, which causes pain. 

This is certainly part of the picture with many cases of low back pain, and this is why so many patients receive relief from chiropractic adjustments--when you correct the misalignment, you help normalize nerve function and decrease pain.

But there are multiple things which can affect the low back beyond simple issues of alignment.

Internal organs can refer pain to musculoskeletal locations like the low back.  Prostate issues, ovarian and uterine issues, kidney infection, bladder infection,  and inflammation of the large and/or small intestine can all cause low back pain.  In particular, I tend to see many patients with at least mild digestive tract inflammation affecting their low backs.  This inflammation can often be addressed fairly simply with dietary changes and probiotic supplementation which many patients have found to decrease the frequency of their episodes of low back discomfort.

The way in which a person moves often has a significant impact on the low back as well.  Lifting with the legs with a spine held in a neutral position protects the low back, while bending to lift with the muscles of the back puts unnecessary strain on the low back which can lead to injury.  In particular, twisting and lifting with low back can be extremely detrimental to low back health.

Levels of physical activity can also greatly affect the health of the low back.  The vertebral discs between vertebrae are not heavily vascular, so much of their nutrition comes from surrounding fluids which are pumped into the disc by motions like walking.  If a person is very sedentary, their vertebral discs do not receive as much nutrition from surrounding fluids and can become more compressed and more vulnerable.

So when a patient asks, 'what caused my low back pain?', I talk about all the factors I see as playing a role in their particular case. When they ask what they can do to care for their low back, I give them dietary advice to support their digestive health, I help them with ways they can move better to protect the low back, I recommend regular physical activity, and advise them to get their spine's alignment checked on a semi-regular basis, and more frequently if they are experiencing pain or discomfort.

In other words, eat right, lift with your legs, exercise, and get that spine adjusted to keep that low back feeling great!