Should We Be Scared of Lower Back Pain?
Many of us experience low back pain, in fact, I would go as far as saying that ALL of us have, are, or will experience lower back pain in our lives because the prevalence of pain in the lower back is 96% in adults (Dr.Baraki).
We have all been consistently told in our lives that we should be scared of pain in the back because our spines are important and fragile, which leads us to respond by halting all exercise; but what evidence is there to support this recovery method? There is surprisingly little verification for this!
Practitioners have continued to try to find a cause for back pain but have little success in trying to treat it. We would assume that as technology progresses, the prevalence would decrease, but over the last 100 years, the occurrence of back pain has only increased (Dr.Baraki).
Back Pain is Normal!
It has been found though, that the prevalence increases with age, and that most (or all) older adults have spine ‘deformities’ shown in X-rays. This is an indicator that changes in the spine should be viewed as a normal effect of ageing.
Experts in the field have said that back pain is equally as normal as greying hair! The only difference is that we have medicalized back pain (Dr.Baraki).
There is a common misconception about the spine being fragile. The spine is a sturdy and well-adapted structure and is just as strong and capable as all other bones.
How Diagnoses Impacts Us
The biomedical model is built to name and diagnose changes in the body, but when we hear terms like “arthritic degeneration” we become extremely conscious and worried about that diagnosis; when in reality 98% of adults have arthritic degeneration in their neck and 70% of adults have disc bulges in their spine with no pain at all (Dr. Bahram Jam).
When we receive diagnoses with medical jargon that we don’t understand, we obviously revert to worry. This reaction occurs because we don’t know what’s normal and isn’t (Dr.Bahram Jam).
In fact, the normal experience of ageing is to experience lower back pain, those who don’t experience it are the exception! So overall, NO- we should not be afraid of low back pain.
How to Handle Lower Back Pain
Numerous clients have told me that they are worried about their back when doing exercises, even when they are not experiencing any pain, due to a diagnosis they received.
We tend to forget that our bodies are strong, and made to withstand strenuous exercise. Humans evolved to be hunter-gatherers, who are built for endurance and activity. The main difference between primal and modern humans is that we are far more sedentary now.
Being sedentary can commonly aggravate back pain because the muscles around the spine are not being stretched and the spine is stationary. The main advice of modern research is to continue being active within a painless range of motion. Exercises can very easily be adapted to accommodate this!
There is a growing consensus in this field of research that back pain generally gets better by itself! (Dr.Baraki) This means that exercise adaptations will be temporary and beneficial for recovery.
Resistance training should be endorsed, not avoided! Strength training is great for building muscle and increasing bone density, which means the spine will be supported by the surrounding musculature and make the structure itself stronger!
A study conducted in 2019 found that individuals with scoliosis who engaged in resistance training and aerobic training had greater functional capacity after 12 weeks, as compared to those who only engaged in aerobic training (Xavier et al., 2019).
A 2018 study published in the Journal of back and musculoskeletal rehabilitation found that resistance training actually decreased lower back pain, increased health-related quality of life, and improved balance and physical fitness for women (Cortell-Tormo et al., 2018).
Another study found that even individuals with chronic lower back pain will experience pain relief and improved joint mobility if they engage in resistance training (Carpenter & Nelson, 1999).
Learn to Brace!
Always Brace! Bracing stabilizes the spine and core. Bracing reduces the strain put on your neck and spine while lifting heavy. It can take time to master the art of bracing but dedicate yourself to it to protect your spine. Bracing also helps to engage the core during every movement, therefore you are strengthening your core in every exercise.
Take these tips with you to training and trust your body!