Marsh column: Do you suffer from lower back pain?

  • Posted: Monday, January 28, 2013 1:09 a.m.

It has been stated that some sort of back pain affects 80 percent of Americans at some time in their lives.

Typically it is the lower back. The lumbar part of your spine (lower back) is the most weight bearing part of the spine. Now “throw” a big belly with some weak abdominals into the equation and that is the perfect recipe for lower back pain.


Of course it can be due to an injury or overuse of the muscles, ligaments and joints.

Even a herniated or ruptured disc (the cushioning between the vertebrae) will most of the time put pressure on the nerve roots giving you pain in the buttocks or even all the way down your leg. Or numbness, tingling or burning sensations in your lower extremities can be a cause from lower back issues. Another reason can be osteoarthritis, with age the wear and tear of cartilage and discs decreases. Even a bad hip (or any other lower body joint problem) can cause back pain due to a limp or the way you are walking. Other reasons for lower back pain can be:

• Spondylolisthesis is a defect in the spine where your vertebra slides over another.

• Spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spine (in the area where your spinal cord goes through), which is usually caused by aging.

• Fractures of the vertebra due to an accident such as a car accident, falling off a ladder, etc.

•Spinal deformities, such as severe scoliosis, put lots of pressure on the discs and nerves.

• Compression fractures are most common with post- menopausal women who also experience osteoporosis (that is another reason why lifting weights is so important…)

Of course, these are just common possible reasons for lower back pain. If you are experiencing lower back pain, have your doctor diagnose you first. With MRIs and CT scans and sometimes just some simple tests, doctors can find out a lot about what is going on with your back. Physical therapy and exercise are very successful in helping with lower back pain. I know when I don’t exercise, my lower back hurts a lot due to an injury when I was in martial arts.

With many members I have been in contact with, we have been able to help by showing them exercises to strengthen the core (abs, back and side — really from below the pecs to above the knee). If the belly is big (or extended), it puts lots of extra pressure on the lower back and once again, exercising, weight loss and correct posture can be your ticket to a healthy lower back. I do see that too many people want to have surgery thinking it is going to make all the problems go away. Most surgeons will have you go through physical therapy first because they know that if you don’t do your exercises to strengthen the core and reduce your extended abdomen, the surgery will not be as successful. Delaine Fowler Pt, DPt from Fowler Physical Therapy has helped me a lot because she understands me as an athlete, and just someone who has a hard time taking it easy.

My personal opinion rehabilitating a lower back problem is to have a doctor’s diagnosis first. Then, work with a physical therapist and change your lifestyle/diet if your lower back issue is due to pressure on the spine because of an extended abdomen and a weak core before you resort to back surgery.

Ester H Marsh ACSM Cpt Health and Fitness Director JF Hurley Family YMCA

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