Low back pain is a common disorder with significant consequences for the patient. Though the prognosis of acute low back pain is considered to be good, chronic low back pain is very frequent. Factors that may predict poor recovery for chronic low back pain may include initial disability, rather than initial pain intensity and pain worse on standing or lying.
The anatomy of the spine includes the Vertebral Canal, the Spinal Cord, Nerve Roots, Pedicles, Lamina, Spinous Process, Transverse Processes, Articular Facet and Intervertebral Disc. The spinal cord branches out to all parts of the body and the nerve root connects the nerve to the spinal cord. If this root is injured then you may feel pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the part of the body served by that nerve.
The vertebral discs are the flexible, rubber like cushions that sit between the vertebrae. They comprise a nucleus and an annulous and they allow the spine to twist and bend. If a disc is herniated, then the nucleus may bulge onto a nerve root and cause pain, numbness and tingling in the leg.
There are many other pathologies that can cause back pain and these can be discussed with your medical adviser.
In order to try and prevent back injury there are several principles that should be considered when undertaking normal activities.
✺ If you are bending for anything, then bending your knees decreases the stress on your back.
✺ Before lifting, bring objects close to the body and near your waist height.
✺ Separating your feet improves your stability when you are lifting.
✺ Organise your work environment so you are not over extending your body and back.
✺ Try to avoid repetitive or sustained activities.
✺ Try to avoid twisting and lifting with any loads.
✺ First thing in the morning the disc is more hydrated and may be more susceptible to injury particularly bending forwards.
✺ Avoid movements which may jar your back.
✺ Sudden movements which may overload your back muscles, should be avoided.
About the author:
Dr Jan Naughton received her PhD at Sydney University where she was lecturing in Sports Medicine and undergraduate physiotherapy. She specialises in shoulder injuries and has a sports physiotherapy practice in Wahroonga on Sydney's upper north shore working with two other specialist colleagues.