So low back pain is probably one of the most common things that we see here at Tulsa Spine & Rehab. Obviously, there’s a host of things that could contribute to low back pain. Was there an accident, some form of repetition, a sports or athletic accident, whatever of the case maybe? So obviously, it makes sense for most of us when there’s a traumatic event, there’s one thing that creates that problem. That makes more sense to us as a patient.
However, the majority of patients that I see that come in with low back pain, there’s not one specific event and that can be frustrating. You’re going about your daily life. You might be somewhat active. You have a desk job, you sit and then you go to pick a piece of paper up or a piece of laundry up, and then you have an acute episode. I’m not minimizing the low back issue because it can be quite serious. But like I said, as a patient, it can be very frustrating that there’s not one traumatic event that ties itself to that low back pain.
So I talk to my patients a lot about something I phrase repetitive or cumulative trauma. This is the day-to-day stuff that we do associated with the things that we don’t do. I mentioned many of us sit for extended periods. We’re a desk. We’re at a device. We’re very sedentary in our day-to-day activities. You get up, you go to the breakfast table, you get in your car, you go to your office, you sit eight hours, you go home, you get on your sofa. So this sedentary activity can be a contributing factor.
In my opinion, one of the biggest contributing factors because what’s happening is we’re creating weakness and laziness in certain types of muscle groups that are there to support us and give us bracing. Additionally, we’re creating a lot of tightness and lack of mobility in muscles and tendons and joints. So you’ve got this combination of, okay, I sit a lot. I’m very sedentary. I’m inactive, okay? I’m not exercising. I’m start to go through a deconditioning if you will. From there, I start to develop a lot of tightness and weakness to muscle groups.
What happens essentially is our margin for error starts to shrink. So ideally, I should be able to pick a piece of paper up or some laundry or transition or transfer out of my chair with no problems. But as I do these things day in and day out and as that margin for error starts to close, there’s potential for injury. Do we put too much stress on a joint? Is the disc going to get irritated? Do you put too much strain or stress on a soft tissue? Typically, that’s what’s happened is that margin for error just continues to get smaller and smaller. Someone picks a piece of laundry up off the floor and they have significant low back pain.
I see it day in and day out, patients with acute low back pain, serious low back pain that’s preventing them from exercising or going to work, playing with their kids all from that. Like I said, it’s very frustrating because it’s hard to imagine just that one activity could create such an issue. So what do we do about it? Well, get off your butt, get moving. I mean, many of us have sedentary type activities or jobs, I mean, the first thing is just start moving around more.
Many times when patients leave my office, I jokingly say, “Stay off your butt. Keep moving. Activity is the key.” It’s true. So if you have a desk job, just interrupt your setting throughout the day. If you drive a lot, take breaks throughout the day. Change up the activity. Then obviously, some form of exercise, whether it’s walking. I’m not talking about going to the gym and working with a trainer, just move, walk, do simple things. Maybe a quick yoga class. It’s not only about strength and stability, which obviously is very important, but it’s about mobility, how well are joints moving, how well is the soft tissue moving, those types of things.
So I think it’s not only important to walk and move, but focus on stretching and flexibility, and core strength. We hear about core strength. The core is like the brace, the corset around my spine, my trunk. The stronger and more stable that trunk and core works or it is, the more margin for error you’ll have. So remember, get off your butt, keep moving, get out, exercise a bit. Like we say here at Tulsa Spine & Rehab, keep moving.