Obstacles to Effective Lower Back Pain Relief

Reasons we may struggle with finding appropriate treatment for low back pain.

Mistakes that We Might Make

Lower back pain can affect your ability to perform and function well in many areas of life. This includes many basic activities of daily living, household duties, yard work and gardening, or recreational sports like golfing or tennis, to name a few. These often become progressively more challenging and difficult to perform when complicated with lower back problems.

With a proper foundation of exercises and stretches that target and retrain the muscles that affect the lower back, one can enjoy improved functioning and performance across these areas. However it requires a commitment of time and effort for results.

Chronic low back pain often restricts our low back muscles, hips and legs from operating in the way they naturally are made to. Pain from the lumbar spine or strained and fatigued muscles in this area act as a deterrent and limit our movement. Correct movements become more difficult to perform due to pain and reduced mobility. We tend to move our bodies differently to avoid further pain and end up using less specialized muscle groups instead. These muscles then learn to move incorrectly over time and may cause problems to our back later on. These muscles then become progressively more sore and strained, also presenting pain. This complicates our lower back issues and causes us to have more difficulty in troubleshooting which areas of our lower back are the source of our pain. This complication may cause us to treat these less relevant areas of the body.

By not treating the more crucial areas that are the source of our pain, we end up applying temporary treatment to the wrong area. This naturally results in a cycle of ineffective treatment and temporary relief. Because the source of the pain has not been addressed yet, sufferers may mistakenly be led to believe that their pain can not be helped and may resign to accept chronic back pain.

Problems Over Time

Chronic lower back pain does not happen overnight. Lower back pain develops from cumulative factors that operate individually or together to cause stress to the lumbar vertebrae and discs. Before you notice any pain to your lower back, a series of problems would have developed in order for it to occur. For example, the lumbar spine is capable of withstanding significant amounts of force and pressure, even if unbalanced. However, the discs and joints involved have their upper limit in which too much pressure will result in nerve impingement, disc bulge (or tear), or joint wear. The smaller intrinsic muscles that keep the spine stable also have their limits. They begin to strain and fatigue from constant pressure or load bearing. They risk strain, sprain, tear or spasm when pushed beyond their limit.

Mixed Signals from the Body

These areas of the body are very strong and are able to bear the load and dynamic pressures we place on them. However, they usually bear until failure with little signs of warning except for a dull pain in some cases. We are not usually sensitive to these warning signs and generally interpret it as a minor problem that over-the-counter medications can remedy. Through repeated cycles of this process, the risk of serious injury and pain is more likely.

This tendency to misinterpret the source of certain types of low back pain and the corresponding treatment presents a significant obstacle to proper long term treatment.

Specific Exercises as an Option to Explore

The idea of exercise to treat low back pain can certainly be intimidating as one may believe that there would be a risk of exacerbating or causing more pain from exercise. Therefore, it is important to follow the correct method of exercise that is protective to the spine and not harmful.

There are exercises specific to low back pain that can be learned. These are effective in allowing the spine to function as intended and not compensate for other muscles groups that were previously neglected. Exercises that target the hip flexors, leg muscles and lower back are very beneficial to protection of the lumbar spine. Transferring the responsibility of work performed by the spine back to the muscles of the lower back, hips and legs is necessary to prevent and reverse low back pain issues. Without this, the lumbar spine compensates for the lack of adequate movement required of these muscles and joints and the risk of strain and injury to the spine and invertebral discs increases. This results in the acute and chronic forms of pain that we experience over time.

Exercise should not be seen as an activity to perform while in pain with the hope of the pain resolving. Rather, it is the means to retrain and recondition the body to function effectively in order to protect the lumbar spine from pain. In order to stay motivated to this reconditioning, and to see the benefits on the spine, it is also helpful to understand the purpose of each muscle group being trained.

Sherwin Nicholson, Honours B.Sc. in Human Biology, 20 years Medical Research, Toronto General Hospital – Max Bell Research Centre. SN Health Resources.

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Is Your Job Causing Your Back Pain?

For example, if you notice that someone is bent over or is constantly carrying a heavy load, you probably make the assumption that their job causes their back to hurt. On the other hand, you really don’t have to do hard work to end up with significant back pain – even sitting can be painful.

Jobs that cause back pain range from outdoor, hard labor to indoor, light office jobs. In fact, the truth is, the job you’re currently working could cause you back pain – but you may not even know what exactly you’re doing to your spine each and every single day.

Careers for Men that Cause Back Pain

Men report back pain much more often than women – at least one in 10 male workers report experiencing back pain for at least a solid week each year. So, what are these men doing that causes their back pain? Of course, heavy manual labor is one of the careers to blame. However, those office jobs and skilled professional jobs are also to blame. Following are the top 5 careers that cause back pain in men.


In a 2002 study, carpentry work showed the most and highest reported incidences of pain in male-dominated professions. This is because they are constantly making repetitive motions, bending, twisting, and reaching when they’re working. Additionally, this pain can be aggravated with heavy lifting done at work, which leads to a 20 percent rate of back pain in carpenters.

Auto Mechanics

In the past, auto mechanics were grouped in with construction workers, but are slowly emerging as a group of sufferers. They tend to lie on their backs or stand under cars with their arms raised over their heads to work on these vehicles. This position puts a strain on the major muscles located in their back. Additionally, the heavy and/or vibrating tools, as well as the need to reach, bend, and twist while holding heavy vehicle parts leads to back pain among auto mechanics.

Farm Workers

While it is true that farm machinery seems to have eased the traditionally back-breaking work of farming, it has not entirely eliminated it. There are still lots of farming tasks that require bending over, heavy lifting, the endurance to stand in one spot, and repetitive motions while working a spot of ground or working with irrigation equipment.

Machine Operators

Machine operators are responsible for a wide variety of tasks. However, primarily, they use and/or vibrating equipment as well as equipment that requires repetitive motion to make it work. Finally, standing for long hours, pushing and pulling levers and machine arms can contribute to or cause back pain in machine operators.

Desk Jobs

This is a career where there is a lot of sitting. The truth is, sitting behind a desk is not a way to avoid back pain. In fact, office workers typically spend eight to ten hours glued to their chair.

They have zero back support and spend a lot of their time hunched over their computer. This causes their muscles to become tight and therefore leads to pain in their backs and hips.

Desk jobs also include the IT sector. They spend countless hours at their desk, hooked to a telephone and a computer. Having a headset for the phone helps somewhat, but they still experience lots of pain.

Other Male Careers

Some of the other top careers that cause back pain in men include general manual labor, professional trades such as plumbing, electrical, or welding work, and driving a truck.

Careers for Women that Cause Back Pain

When you look at the statistics, women have much lower occurrences in back pain than men when it comes to their careers. However, this doesn’t mean that they do not experience back pain in their jobs. There are still lots of primarily female jobs that can result in back pain. Following are the top five female-centered careers that cause or contribute to back pain.


Women in the field of nursing put strain and pressure on their backs and they bend over their patients, transfer their patients between beds, and so much more. Additionally, nurses are responsible for lots of paperwork now, which requires them to spend hours hunched over computers and paperwork. It is obvious why nurses have so many more injures to their backs than any other career.


Women in this career spend lots of time scrubbing things down, bending over, carrying cleaning supplies from one room to the next and so much more. These repetitive motions, bending, twisting, and reaching end up causing serious strain on the spine.

Restaurant Workers

Working in a restaurant is definitely considered back breaking work. Being up on your feet all day long, with few- if any- breaks to sit down, carrying heavy dish pans, and repetitively cleaning or chopping puts strain on both upper and lower back muscles.


Until recently, hairdressers were not considered when it comes to back pain. However, recently, researchers have begun to take notice of the fact that salon workers typically stand for long periods of time with their arms up, cutting and styling hair. On the other hand, some of them stay bent over styling hair, doing wax jobs, and more. When you’re not able to perform a normal range of motion, repetitively reaching and raising your arms can cause major problems and pain in your muscles.

Childcare Workers

Childcare workers are always picking up children, toys, sitting in child-size chairs at child-size tables. This puts a strain on their backs. Additionally, is the fact that most of the time, children are carried on one hip, as an uneven load, which throws your spine out of alignment and can cause you to have problems for years to come.

Other Female Careers

In addition to the above careers, other primarily female careers that report experiencing back pain are as follows: assembly line, cashier, textile careers, general manual labor, and even teaching.

Red Flags

Even if you don’t see your career listed above, you could still be causing damage to your spine at work. If your job includes any of the following, you are more likely to experience back pain at some point.

1 – Lifting/Moving heavy objects.

2 – Vibrating tools or standing on shop floors where manufacturing is taking place.

3 – Repetitive motions, especially twisting, bending, or reaching.

4 – Sitting/Standing for a long time.

5 – Working on a computer keyboard or workstation.

Any of these factors can be a red flag that you could be looking at unless you take steps to protect your body from pain, such as proper nutrition and adequate exercise, you will probably have pain at some point.

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