One of the most common ailments for which people seek massage is Low Back Pain.
Recently, a good friend hurt his back by hefting some lumber around while building a greenhouse. He wanted to build it quickly as he was racing an upcoming cold-snap. He learned something that most of Americans do at some point in their lives: lifting and twisting at the same time is not a good idea. The New York Times reported in 2012 that Low Back Pain is the second most common complaint for which people consult their doctors’ (6).
The most important thing to learn regarding Low Back Pain (LBP), is how to prevent it. A lot of grief can be circumvented using proper lifting techniques. The Mayo Clinic has a brief, but informative, slideshow on proper lifting techniques here (4). Many people who come to see me for LBP have been lifting things that they don’t expect to cause them trouble.
For example, one woman had been frequently reaching down to pick up her child, and then carrying him on her hip. Children are light at first, but they quickly get heavier. This client was used to just twisting, bending over and hoisting the child up. She wasn’t concerned with bending at the knees and maintaining proper spinal curvature.
Another friend often comes to me for LBP treatment. He frequently lifts heavy things, alone, so it isn’t surprising that he gets occasional spasms. There was one instance, however, when he was simply moving wet clothes from the washing machine to the dryer. Wet clothes are heavier than you might think, but more importantly transferring them from one machine to the other requires lifting and twisting (probably with knees locked). He may not have had any trouble doing this usually, but my friend, having previous injury to the area is more susceptible to re-injury.
It isn’t just previous injury that predisposes someone to LBP caused by muscular strain. A number of other factors can be involved, and paying attention to them can help avoid not only low back strain, but strain elsewhere as well. These factors, called perpetuating factors, by Travell and Simons’ (p178 1.) include mechanical stresses, nutritional inadequacies, metabolic and endocrine inadequacies, psychological factors, chronic infection, and others. Questions to ask yourself and your doctor include:
- Am I overusing, underusing, or misusing my muscles? Bad furniture? Bad posture, repetitive strain?
- Am I getting adequate amounts of vitamins B and C, Iron, calcium, potassium, and trace minerals?
- Is my thyroid functioning properly? Am I anemic?
- Am I fully addressing my stress, depression, and/or anxiety?
- Are there underlying psychological motivations for continuing to be sick?
- Am I uncomfortable asking for help? Are there secondary benefits to being in pain that I don’t want to lose?
- Do I have a chronic infection or allergies?
- Am I getting adequate sleep?
Having an awareness of these perpetuating factors, along with proper lifting techniques and body mechanics are important to preventing strain and spasms in the low back, and if strain has already occurred, will help to promote faster recovery and prevent re-injury.
©Jesse W. Byrd 2013