One of the primary responsibilities of the spine is to be able to withstand compression during activity (Chen, Chuang, Hedman, Lin, & Lin. 2017). Some of these activities include sitting for long periods, standing while carrying heavy items, bending down to pick up an item and twisting.
Low Back Pain
Low back pain is a common problem. It is what causes many people to miss work, decrease activities and is the leading cause of disability in the world (Mayo Clinic, 2019). However, many times, low back pain can be prevented or lessened by using proper body mechanics when performing activities
Levels of Back Pain
- Acute pain. Most back pain is acute pain and mechanical. This type of pain can last for a few days to a few weeks and it tends to mend itself with self-care and there is no linger loss of use once healed.
- Subacute pain. Back pain that lasts 4-12 weeks.
- Chronic back pain. Pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks. Some people experience symptoms of back pain after one year even after initial acute back pain was treated.
Signs and Symptoms
- Muscle aches and pain that feel like stabbing or shooting pain.
- Pain that increases when standing, lifting, bending or twisting
- Pain decreases better when in a reclined position.
Contributing Factors to Low Back Pain
Note: Anyone, including children, can develop back pain. However, the following items can put you at a greater risk for developing back pain.
- Age. Starting around 30 to 40 years old, back pain is more common.
- Excess weight. Excess weight, especially around the midsection or stomach area puts extras stress on the back.
- Improper lifting. Many times, people have developed poor lifting habits – lifting with your back and not your legs. This can lead to back pain and strain.
- Lack of Exercise. Weak muscles in the abdomen and back can lead to back pain.
- Diseases and Conditions. Certain diseases and conditions such as cancer, arthritis, herniated discs, degenerative discs, sciatica and osteopenia (brittle bones) can contribute to back pain.
- Smoking. Smoking decreases blood flow to the spine and from delivering nutrients required for the back to stay strong.
- Psychological conditions. Depression and anxiety also pose a greater risk for back pain due to muscle tension, decreased motivation to stay active which leads to weak muscles and inactivity and an unhealthy lifestyle which increases the risks for back pain.
Prevention/Reduction of Low Back Pain
- Use proper lifting techniques when bending and twisting.
- Exercise. Regular low impact exercises that do not strain the back.
- Stretching. Specific exercises that stretch the back and hips to avoid or decrease back or leg pain associated with tight and inflexible muscles in that area.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight pulls on the back and can cause the back to weak and increase pain with regular activity.
- Stop smoking. If help is needed, please contact your doctor or join a support group.
Vitamins and Supplements
Along with eating healthy, managing stress, exercise, and stretching, supplements are also beneficial in improving and maintaining a strong and healthy back especially if degenerative changes to bones and joints are the causes of pain. Some people have found that collagen naturally decreased joint, bone, ligament and back pain (Albert & Aukermann et al., 2008; Chen & Chuang et al. 2017). Collagen also increases bone density and strengthens the surrounding structures of the bone. Vitamins D and Calcium are also known to strength bones. Please consult your doctor before taking collagen or adding any other supplement or vitamins to your health routine to ensure that it is right for you.
Wearable Products to Support the Back
Most products that are worn to decrease pain related to back strain or sprain were not intended for long-term use. In fact, long-term use of back supports does not allow the back to move freely and restricts the abdominal and back muscles from being effectively used and strengthened leading to a weaker back and abdomen and higher risk of long-term pain and possible injury (Mayo Clinic, 2019).
How Occupational Therapy Can Help Reduce Low Back Pain
Occupational Therapy (OT) uses Biomechanical and Rehabilitation evidence-based approaches to promote function and improved body mechanics when completing and activity and to reduce pain in the lower back. First, OT assesses the person to determine the level of possible restoration of the body; and secondly, if the individual is unable to achieve a significant reduction in pain due to their condition, OT will devise a well thought out, evidence-based plan of care to modify the environment or task so that the individual can participate more meaningfully in their activity to maintain or improve life satisfaction and well-being.
Please contact Life Wellness for more information at Christa@OTWellness.com or select the Contact tab at the top of the page.
Albert, A. & Aukermann, D.F. (2008). 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 24(5). 1485-96. doi: 10.1185/030079908X291967
Chen, W.P., Chuang, S.Y., Hedman, T.P., Lin, H.J. & Lin, L.C. (2017). Effects of collagen crosslink augmentation on mechanism of compressive load sharing in intervertebral discs. Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering, 37(1). 94-101
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019). Back pain. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on November 11, 2019.
Ogon, I., & Takebayashi, T. et al. (2015). Analysis of chronic low back pain with magnetic resonance imaging t2 mapping of lumbar intervertebral disc. Journal of Orthopaedic Science : Official Journal of the Japanese Orthopaedic Association, 20(2), 295-301. doi:10.1007/s00776-014-0686-0.