The little known secret of chronic lower back pain

by | Oct 20, 2016

“All I did was bend over to pick up my boots, How could that make my back go out?”

If you are like most chronic back pain sufferers you can relate…maybe it’s not picking up boots, it could be reaching for a brief case, putting on socks, playing basketball, pulling a weed, coughing, sneezing or any of a million other activities.  The crazy thing about it is usually it is an activity you have performed hundreds if not thousands of times but this time…POW!

Or maybe not, maybe this time it was a familiar little “tweak” you felt in your low back or neck and now you get to just wait for the real pain to start.  You know it’s coming but you try to talk yourself out of it, try stretching or “what was that exercise I was supposed to do to strengthen my back?” But it’s too late here comes the pain again.

It’s not the WHAT you did, It’s how your body did it.

I have been asked daily for the past 28 years “Why did this happen, all I did was….”

Everyone wants the cause and effect,” If you don’t do that anymore this wont happen ever again. “ We are taught in our society to base our opinions on our health by the presence or absence of symptoms.  If our back doesn’t hurt it must be fine.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

First off let’s clear something up,  Backs don’t “Go out” and discs don’t “Slip”. If you could see an x-ray of your back seconds before the pain started and compare that to right after there would be no measurable difference in position of the vertebrae, you have too many super strong ligaments holding the segments in place. Discs can bulge or herniate but it is the inner semi liquid portion called the nucleus pulpous that moves, not the entire disc.

So what happened? Why do I have this terrible back pain again?

The simple answer…you moved before your back was ready. “What do you mean, I knew what I was going to do…I’ve done it thousands of times” .

Studies done have found a link to fat deposited in muscles supporting the low back and that muscles ability to stabilize the spine during movement.  The more fat, the less support.  Here is the interesting part…high concentrations of fat were found in very lean people.

What? How?

There are specific muscles designed to support your back for any motion called the multifidus. Before you do any motion, a fraction of a second before you start they fire, that is if they are working correctly. If they aren’t…well, the motion starts first, your spine isn’t stable and wham, Back Pain!

Here is where cause and effect go out the window.

Until your spine is mobile and the mutifidus muscles are reconditioned, there is nothing you can do to prevent future flare ups, in fact the condition will only get worse due to the degenerative nature of time, which means…the episode you experience today will be worse than the one last year, and the next one will be even worse, maybe not in the level of pain you experience but in the amount of degeneration to the vertebrae and deconditioning of the multifidus muscles.

So what do I do to prevent this from happening again?”

Think about this…People take much better care of their teeth than they do their spines.
Imagine if you brushed your teeth only when they hurt, ridiculous right, but I’ve had
patients that will only do the exercises I’ve prescribed until their pain goes away.

The secret is to take care of your spine all the time, Not just when your back or neck hurt!

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Dr. Canty has run an office in San Mateo on 25th Ave. since 1988. Our office is conveniently located on the corner of 25th Ave. and Flores St. in the Manor Theater Building.

32 W 25th Ave #100

San Mateo, CA 94403

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