Burke Williams: Idiopathic Low Back Pain
One of the most common problem patients present with is idiopathic back pain, which simply means back pain of an unknown cause. Patients will say all the time “it’s just something that I woke up with”, or “something that just popped up”. But are the causes of idiopathic back pain truly unknown? What it really means is that the practitioner or the patient can not pinpoint a singular moment or incident that caused the injury.
So is idiopathic back pain a real injury or simply some mysterious pain arising from thin air?
Idiopathic back pain is definitely a real injury. However, it is not a traumatic injury like a sprained ankle or a broken wrist. Traumatic injuries are injuries that occurred when the practitioner and/or patient can clearly determine the moment and mechanism of injury. Idiopathic back pain is an overuse injury, one that creeps up on the patient. The injury occurs slowly over time where a series of minor tissue tears occur over a long period of time. Eventually, enough minor tissue damage is accumulated to send pain signals to your brain. Traumatic injuries like idiopathic back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome are very real injuries with very real physical deformations.
Causes of Idiopathic Back Pain
As mentioned earlier, it’s not so easy to pinpoint what leads to “back pain of unknown cause.” However, the most likely culprit are overuse or less than ideal lifestyle habits. Below are some of the common lifestyle factors that may lead to idiopathic back pain over time.
- Sitting too much
- Poor sitting posture
- Excess weight, especially around the abdominal region
- Heavy computer use
- Lack of Exercise
- Poor core (abdominals and lower back) strength
- Improper lifting technique
- Frequently bending over
- Long commute in your vehicle
- Poor flexibility
- Poor mattress/pillow/chair/sofa
Notice that many of these factors are related to one another. Making a few simple alterations in your daily life may successfully remove multiple risk factors for idiopathic low back pain.
Preventative Care for Idiopathic Back Pain
Aside from removing possible factors that may put you at risk of suffering back pain in the future, there are several common and effective approaches to help prevent future episodes. Always consult your physician prior to beginning an exercise program or if you’re suffering from long-term back pain.
If your lifestyle is mostly sedentary
- Regular walks/jogs – light cardio exercise improves circulation and is sufficient in helping participants maintain and even improve core strength.
- Back Stretches – Daily, or even just weekly stretches can help you maintain flexibility, lower muscle tension, and improve blood flow to the surrounding tissues.
- Get a back massage to lower the tension built up in the muscles
- Weight loss program to reduce abdominal fat
If your lifestyle is active
- Maintain proper strength balance with you anterior and posterior core.
- If you are lifting weights for your upper back and shoulder muscles, do not ignore your lower back muscles
- Aside from back stretches, also stretch your hip flexors.
- Stretch post-workout to reduce soreness