Back pain; The mechanics of back pain

September 6, 2011 Back Pain

Back pain the mechanics of back pain: Most people who have back pain have backs that are structurally normal. Their spines are straight, and all the joints between the vertebrae are in their proper position and not swollen or inflamed.

Yet their back pain is very real. Most people with back pain have a problem with short, tight, rigid back muscles. Muscles strengthen with repeated use and weaken when they are under-used. People with different lifestyles and occupations may use their back muscles differently. It makes sense then that stronger muscles cope with the exertions of life better than weaker ones. Weak muscles subjected to unusual exertion can become easily tired, or become swollen, tender and go into cramp, or spasm. This often leads to a very painful back. What this means is that your back pain may be very severe, but fundamentally there is nothing wrong. (Hard to believe when the pain is overwhelming).

The Back Book (ISBN 0-11-702078-8) points out that back pain is not usually due to serious disease, and that most attacks settle quickly. It does not need to become disabling. What follows are a few practical points from The Back Book.

  • When lifting know your limits, lift by bending your knees not your back
  • When sitting use an orthopaedic posture chair, or hard straight vertical backed chair, this will help support your back
  • When driving move the seat until your legs are at the right distance from the pedals, and your body and legs are in the same plane. Don’t drive for long periods. As with sitting in a chair if you can organise support to the small of your back do so. (roll up a small towel and place it in the small of your back)
  • When walking, cycling, or swimming make time for at least 30-40 minutes of brisk exercise every day. Then increase it day by day.
  • When sleeping use a firm mattress, the evidence that a hard mattress is better than a firm one isn’t great.
  • Try to relax; there are many methods by which you can relax your muscles, including yoga, transcendental meditation and the Alexander technique. They can combine ways of controlling breathing, calming your mind and improving your muscle tone.

Always consult your GP at the onset of symptoms.

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