Archives for September 2010
These days, most people have to sit at their computer all day. They don’t have the best posture in the world, and they don’t always have the best ergonomic set up for their desks. They are also under a lot of stress. However, usually bad posture, stress, and poor ergonomics will lead to frequent headaches, neck and upper back pain… not low back pain.
Low back pain is usually reserved for those employees doing physical work, a lot of lifting, bending, and stooping. During the times that I’ve seen patients with more physical jobs, most of them presented to my office with low back pain. Now, the top half of their body provides the more abundant symptom.
So if you don’t do physical work all day, why are you getting low back pain? I noticed the same two major muscle groups being tight and stressed over and over again. By stretching these two major areas, a lot of very common symptoms, including low back pain and sciatica seemed to get quick relief. Doing the stretches also seemed to make a difference long term in my patients’ ability to get longer lasting results from their chiropractic care.
The first muscles you should stretch are your hamstrings. You sit all day and the seated position puts them in their shortest position. Standing up means your hamstrings are pulling on your pelvis and pulling things out of place. Keeping this muscle more flexible is key in helping your back pain.
People have the most trouble because they can’t quite get it stretched. First step would be to get off the floor. That’s usually too much! Stand up or sit in a chair and put your leg straight out on a chair. Slowly try to touch your toes. Just go slow and only as far as you can reasonably go without pain. Hold the stretch for at least thirty seconds. Repeat on each side twice. Usually people just don’t hold their stretches long enough to do much good. Consistency will make the difference in getting more flexible.
The next muscles to stretch are your hip rotators. Relieving the muscles here takes a lot of strain off the sciatica problem. For this one, you can even do it while lying in bed or on the floor. Keep one leg straight while you pull your other leg up to your chest. You should feel a pull. You can further stretch this area by pulling your knee across your body to get better results. Again, hold the stretch for at least thirty seconds.
Chances are, you’re not going to stop working on your computer any time soon. Taking a few minutes each day to do some stretching will make a world of difference. Seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis is also a huge help.
If you ignore a back problem, it will likely not go away on its own. Sometimes you can get through an episode when it’s early in the condition with some over the counter medications and rest. So you’d think. If the underlying problem is never addressed, the back pain problem is there to resurface again at a later date.
Usually when the pain returns, it hurts a little bit more and lasts a little bit longer. Over time, the episodes will start to show up more frequently until the person takes the actions necessary to create a more substantial healing. (Hopefully they go to see a chiropractor and get their spine in its proper alignment instead of relying on stronger and stronger medications.)
More often than not, the person dealing with the back pain follows their doctor’s orders and concern themselves with their back only when the pain shows up. Then they return to doing all the same things that led them to the the problem in the first place. Then the symptoms return and they show back up to their doctor.
“I know what I’ve got, doc. Last time you told me it was my L5 disc.” They then expect you to do what you did last time, give them the relief in the same time frame you gave it to them last time and they can get on with their lives. Sometimes it happens just like that, sometimes the episode takes a couple of extra days to return back to normal.
Eventually, they’ll get the same condition, they’ll show back up to your office, expect the same results… and they won’t happen. The doctor will end up doing more tests and discover that they don’t just have an “L5 disc” problem anymore. They now have L4 and L5 and the sciatic nerve is being compressed. The previously minor disc bulge at L5 has turned into a full blown disc herniation with potentially more invasive treatment needed to alleviate the pain.
How could this have been avoided? Once you’ve been notified that you have a back problem, seek relief from the pain first. Once the pain is gone, you must distinguish that your “pain” and your “problem” are two different things. Celebrate the relief of your pain, but evaluate what may have led to the problem in the first place.
Are you strengthening your back muscles? Are you getting enough exercise? How are your daily activities contributing to the problem and how can they be modified. Don’t accept your back condition and assume it will never change or get worse. Most of them can and do get worse over time.