Duncan Blog

Dr. Eric Duncan Blog

Duncan Chiropractic Group P.C.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Why Does My Back Always Hurt?

Low back pain is a very common problem affecting 80-90% of all of us at some point in our lifetime. Why is that you ask? There are many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that we are 2-legged animals carrying 2/3rds of our weight above our waist. Studies have shown deterioration or arthritis occurs much sooner in us vs. our 4-legged animal counterparts. A 180 lbs man carries roughly 120 lbs above the waist. This means, every time he bends over, in order to stand upright, he needs to lift 120 lbs PLUS whatever he is lifting. Hence, the argument of, "...but I only bent over to lift a pencil and my back went out," seems on the surface as impossible but in reality, the man in our example is lifting the pencil plus 120 lbs. Now, let's add to that the point that a 5 pound weight equals 50 pounds when held out in front with the arms stretched out straight. Now, if that's not bad enough, now, let's assume all of this is happening from a bent forward position, with a twist at the waist, with out stretched arms, while lifting a 20 pound object. Get the idea? It's amazing our back doesn't get injured every day as we lift 2 bags of groceries into the far end of a car trunk, or, when lifting our 30 pound child in and out of a car seat, height chair, or when they are screaming and pushing away from us as we try to lift them!
In order to further appreciate why the low back is so vulnerable to injury, some basic understanding of anatomy is needed. When we're born, the back is made up of 33 segments of which 5 fuse by the time we're about 18 years old to make up the sacrum (bottom of the spine) and 4 fuse to make up the coccyx (tail bone), leaving 5 lumbar (low back), 12 thoracic (mid-back) and 7 cervical (neck) vertebra. These are stacked up on top of each other like building blocks and are connected to each other by a shock absorbing disk in the front and two smaller facet joints in the back, acting like a tripod. In the low back, we're supposed to bear about 80% of our weight in the front and 20% in the back but, if our abdominal muscles are a bit out of shape and the pelvis rotates forwards, the curve in the low back increases and overloads the back of the vertebra (facets) making them vulnerable to injury. The disk becomes injured when we bend/lift/twist. This can tear the outer tough fibers of the disk, allowing the central more liquid-like material to leak out. If this happens, the leaking or "herniated" disk can put pressure on the nerve that exits the spine and travels down our leg. If the pain pattern includes the back of the leg, it's commonly referred to as "sciatica."
OK, enough about anatomy. What can we do to reduce the chances of having periodic low back pain? Obviously, staying in shape is very important. Certain muscles of the body must be tight to keep us upright or standing. These muscles need to be stretched on a regular basis. For example: the hamstring muscle. We've all had to perform hurdler types of exercises and remember how tight they feel!
We realize that you have a choice in where you choose for your healthcare services. If you, a friend or family member requires care for low back pain, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future.