As a chiropractor I am often asked why so many people get low back pain. Obviously, if someone has a car accident or a slip and fall, the low back can suffer from pulled muscles, vertebrae out of alignment and inflammation. But what about all the people who develop back pain without an obvious initiating cause?
Countless times in my practice a patient would come in holding their back and tell me all they did was pick up a sock off the floor and ‘bam’, crippling back pain!
One important cause of back pain, which often has to do with spasms of the large muscles that
hold us upright, is stress. It is common for a person that worries and hurries a lot, skips meals and stays up late, to tighten up in the low back area. A person might think they have the same routine every day, so why, suddenly, does something like this happen?
What they are not aware of are other contributing factors. One example is the weather. Big changes in weather patterns can add inflammation and tightness into the mix. Another example is specific emotions that, subconsciously, might be triggering an old frustration or hurt, i.e., ‘pushing your buttons’, again leading to tightness of certain muscle groups. The tightening up of low back muscles can gradually and subtly increase until the bending over to pick up the sock is ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back,’ or at least ‘threw it out’.
Another less obvious factor that causes back pain is constipation and other bowel issues. Even individuals who say they are ‘regular’ can have some degree of constipation, with little awareness of it, and that is a huge number of people. Simple gas and bloating can also contribute to back pain. These bowel issues, even subtle ones, can also cause the back muscles to spasm, leading to a back going out.
One other more obvious cause of back pain is worth mentioning. People who engage in an activity that utilizes muscle groups in ways they have not been used to, such as starting a yoga class, new types of exercises at the gym, or, more obviously, the seasonal raking of leaves or shoveling snow, even if they are being slow and careful, are commonly subjected to spasms and inflammation, leading to their backs going out.
All of the above scenarios usually involve a complex of imbalances. These typically include
spasms of various muscles, inflammation of the joint capsules and discs, and certainly vertebrae
being pulled out of alignment. In my treatment of back pain I always include a variety of therapies
and modalities such as myofascial release, vibration and far infra-red, that address all of these. In
my experience it is rarely enough to give only a chiropractic adjustment. I always assume multiple
If you suffer from chronic low back pain with no obvious initiating cause, consider stress
management techniques like yoga or gently stretching, meditation, warm bathes with epsom
salts, and making sure the diet you are eating keeps your bowels clean, healthy and regular.
There are plenty of natural herbal remedies to keep the bowels happy.
Wisdom from ‘ayurvedic medicine’ suggests soothing the ‘vata dosha.’ This means avoiding too much exposure to cold, both environmentally and in your food, and favoring warm and calming activity and food. This is especially true for the skinny, worry-hurry ‘vata’ type people. In extreme cases enemas can be very helpful. Other tips if you have nagging low back pain are to avoid walking in high-heeled shoes, avoid jumping, jogging or strenuous exercise and minimize sexual activity. By all means practice mindfulness and avoid letting yourself get carried away by the activities you are engaged in.