Osteopath outlines the 6 most common causes of lower back pain

An oestopath has outlined the six most common causes of lower back pain and how to treat the discomfort without analgesics.

According to Hampshire-based Antonia Boulton, the most common cause of back pain is often muscle or joint strain, which can occur when lifting or overstretching.

Rather than reaching for painkillers, such discomfort can usually be eased via hot and cold packs, as well as rest.

Other common causes include period pain or simply having poor posture at your desk.

This comes after research released by the University of Warwick last month suggested many patients are needlessly prescribed strong painkillers, wrongly told to rest or even undergoing unnecessary surgery in a bid to treat lower back pain.

Mounting evidence suggests simple exercises and stretches are more effective for easing symptoms.

In a piece for Healthista, Ms Boulton discusses how people can overcome crippling back ache.

An oestopath has outlined the six most common causes of back pain (stock)

An oestopath has outlined the six most common causes of back pain (stock)

Painkillers may not be effective

A study has found painkillers don’t work for lower back pain.

Ms Boulton outlines the causes of lower back pain and how to fix them without prescription medication.

Lower back pain is now the leading cause of disability in the UK. It tops the list, responsible for more than one in 10 of all serious health complaints.

A major review has found that millions of people with back pain are being given the wrong treatment.

In a bid to treat lower back pain – patients are being prescribed strong painkillers, undergoing unnecessary surgery or being told they should rest when that too is unnecessary.

Evidence shows that simple exercises and stretches are in fact more effective as a form of treatment than powerful painkillers.

Growing evidence shows that painkillers are mostly ineffective and can do more harm than good.

Exercise, pilates, yoga and massages are preferable when treating lower back pain.

From a small niggle to complete debilitation, lower back pain is a common problem that affects literally millions of people worldwide.

Unfortunately, we are all likely to suffer at some stage in our lives and the usual solution is to reach for the painkillers.

A clinical review published in the British Medical Journal reports that paracetamol, a common pain relieving medication, is ineffective for the treatment of lower back pain.

What’s more, the subjects in the studies who took paracetamol were shown to be four times more likely to have abnormal results on a liver function test. Not good news.

What are the alternatives to painkillers? 

Well, the most important question to consider first is what’s actually causing your lower back pain.

By asking this question and discovering the correct diagnosis you’ll be able to choose the right techniques or treatments to get to the root cause and move towards a much speedier recovery.

For the most part, lower back pain is caused by strains to the soft tissues, the muscles, tendons or ligaments, and/or to the joints underlying them.

Back issues tend to be lumped together because quite often they have similar symptoms, but the underlying causes can be different and therefore the most effective treatment will vary.

Here I have compiled six of the most common lower back problems I see in my clinic to help guide you towards the best form of treatment for your problem.

Exercise or sport injuries can affect the lower back if people over reach (stock)

Exercise or sport injuries can affect the lower back if people over reach (stock)

Six most common causes 

Acute Muscle or Joint Strain

This is probably the most common injury to happen to the lower back and quite often occurs when lifting, over reaching or from a sporting injury.

Symptoms can include muscle spasm, pain (which can be severe) and restricted movement.

Overreaching, twisting or stretching causes the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the area to tighten to prevent further damage and inflammation will build up as part of the natural healing process.

Fast treatment is the most effective for this.

How to fix it:

Disc prolapse 

This is a more serious condition that requires medical attention.

A prolapse means that the disc, the fluid-filled sac that sits between the vertebrae like a cushion, bulges out of place.

It can press on a nerve, causing pain or pins and needles down the leg.

Usually it is worse in the morning because the disc absorbs more fluid overnight, therefore making the bulge bigger.

It mostly occurs when lifting awkwardly or in a sporting injury.

You should consult your GP or health practitioner first for a correct diagnosis.

How to fix it:

Initially rest is important, but once it has settled and on the advice of your medical practitioner, it is a good idea to strengthen the area.

I recommend Pilates because this targets the core muscles of the abdomen.

Strengthening the core muscles will support the lower back and reduce the risk of any further prolapse.

Try to find an experienced teacher and one who understands your problem.

Degenerative joint disease 

As we grow older the discs that sit between the vertebrae in our back become thinner and the joints become more compressed.

Wearing of the cartilage in between can occur, known as degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis (OA).

An injury can also contribute towards this, as can being overweight.

Contrary to popular belief there are plenty of ways to combat OA.

How to fix it:

Lying on the floor while pulling your knees up could relieve degenerative joint disease

Repetitive Strain Injury   

More commonly seen in the upper body, this type of injury can occur in the lower back when an action is continually repeated over a long period of time, causing stress to the joints or soft tissues.

It happens due to a repetitive pattern in movement usually caused by work or sport.

For example, if at work you constantly have to turn to your right, the right side of your lower back could become compressed, irritated and inflamed.

It is important to address this issue quickly as it can fast become a debilitating injury.

How to fix it: 

Work posture 

Many of us tend to spend our days sitting huddled over a computer, at work, home, or both.

This lack of movement coupled with poor posture at our desks can lead to stiffness and compression in the lower back causing aching.

The obvious answer is to get up and move around, but as this is not always possible, setting up your workstation well is really important.

How to fix it:

The aim is to feel relaxed and well supported when sitting.

Stretching regularly and even taking a walk at lunchtime will be hugely beneficial too.

Period pain 

For some women lower back pain can occur during the monthly cycle due to the uterus contracting and the network of nerves that run through the pelvis.

How to fix it:

It is important to note that if you develop back pain suddenly with your period and it is not the norm for you or you have any other unusual changes it is essential to consult with your GP as it could be a sign of a more serious problem.

This article was originally published by Healthista and reproduced with their permission. 

One thought on “Osteopath outlines the 6 most common causes of lower back pain

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