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Podcast 36

The Causes of Lower Back Pain

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SHOW NOTES

Brian Cygan and Dr. James Fisher discuss the origins of lower back pain and why the vast majority of Americans will experience some form of lower back pain in their lives. Learn about the root cause of lower back pain and why most treatments only deal with the symptoms and the pain instead of solving the problem, which often leads to even worse issues down the road.

  • Fisher is an academic and researcher in the UK. He’s published research on muscular strengthening as well as lower back pain.
  • Lower back pain is a constant issue for a large swath of society. According to his study, somewhere between 70% and 90% of people will experience lower back pain in their lives.
  • Lower back pain can be extremely debilitating to a person’s lifestyle and sleep patterns, and can have a major impact on their mental health as well. There is also an enormous cost to society in terms of productivity.
  • At the Strength Coach, we’ve found that strengthening is an important strategy to improving the quality of life of someone experiencing lower back pain.
  • Chronic lower back is when it occurs for longer than three months. At that point it’s important to seek medical guidance from a physiotherapist or general practitioner.
  • About 10% to 15% of people experiencing chronic lower back pain have a specific reason for it like nerve issues or a slipped disc. The remaining 85% to 90% have what’s referred to as non-specific back pain which reduces the ability to mitigate the pain.
  • For many of those people, the solution is often some form of painkiller or passive treatment like stretching and massage.
  • The theories about the existence of non-specific lower back pain have to do with our evolution from quadrupeds in the past. The muscles around the lower back don’t tend to get much direct exercise and there seems to be a correlation between non-specific lower back pain and weak or atrophied lumbar muscles.
  • The muscles that are more intrinsic to the spine over time, as we live a normal life, can atrophy as a result of not using them in a specific and demanding enough way.
  • For most people, their gluteal muscles and hamstrings are very developed and do a lot of the work that the muscles in the lower back should do, and this can result in those lower back muscles becoming weaker, misfiring, and causing pain.
  • With non-specific back pain, strengthening the muscles in the lower back should be the foundational approach to prevent future episodes of lower back pain.
  • Specific lower back exercises are important for everyone in society to maintain their strength and muscle mass in that region and avoid the onset of lower back pain. Once something negative has happened, the road to recovery gets longer.
  • Your lower back is central to everything you do. Without good control of your central muscles, you cannot throw or catch or jump or move well. From there it’s a downward spiral into the realm of disability.
  • An imbalance between ab strength and lower back muscle strength can be part of the problem. We want all of the muscles surrounding the core of the body to be trained effectively, and it’s the lower back muscles that tend to be forgotten.
  • The weak link is usually the lumbar muscles, and this can lead to a negative feedback process, where someone avoids exercising those muscles even more to avoid the pain resulting in greater muscle atrophy.
  • We have other societal factors that are also contributing to the lower back pain that so many people experience as part of their lives.
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