What Causes Low Back Pain?

While there are several factors which cause low back pain, I have narrowed down these causes into 4 broad categories which include several different conditions.

Low back pain cause – Muscle fatigue and strain

Also referred to as a “pulled muscle”, this happens when muscles are overused, weak or fatigued. Muscles can also spasm and tear from an injury, and of course, the more serious the damage, the longer it will take to heal … Massage therapy is a great treatment option for these types of injuries, and clients usually do well when it is combined with a more active therapy, such as remedial exercise and stretching.

Low back pain cause – Joint and bone dysfunction

This type of back pain is often referred to as “mechanical back pain” or “mechanical dysfunction” when referring specifically to the joints. What this means is that a joint is not able to move as it is meant to, either from injury to the bone or joint, or excess tone of the surrounding muscles. Unfortunately, this can lead to several other issues and can be a self-perpetuating cycle if left untreated, often causing seemingly unrelated problems.

Of course, bones and joints can also be affected by fractures, breaks, arthritis and a multitude of other conditions which is well beyond the scope of massage therapy to diagnose. Massage therapy can, however, be used to alleviate symptoms and assist in recovery.

Low back pain cause – neurological

Low back pain from a neurological source can be a result of a variety of triggers, all of which are related to either the intervertebral disc, spinal cord, or the “nerve roots” as they exit the spinal cord. This type of pain can be excruciating and very debilitating, as anyone with a “slipped disc” will tell you. (this is a bit of a misnomer, and will be addressed in upcoming articles). This type of low back pain usually presents as symptoms in the area which the affected nerve root supplies, so the location of the symptoms is really dependant on the nerve root “level” where the injury or restriction happened. Pain which occurs in one area but originates from dysfunction in another area is called “referred” or “referral” pain.

Low back pain cause – visceral referral

In some cases pain can be a result of a dysfunction or infection of an internal organ. This happens because the “nociceptors” (pain receptors) of an organ are irritated and the pain is either felt in the skin or tissue which is superficial to the organ, or in a classic “referral pattern”.

If a person is not aware of any activity or cause of the pain, or if the pain has been present for any length of time, I would urge you to see a physician immediately to rule out anything more serious than a muscular cause for the pain. Once the origin of pain has been determined, an effective treatment plan can be put in place.

Jodi Forsythe has been a Registered Massage Therapist since graduating from a 2200-hour massage therapy program in Nova Scotia, Canada, in July of 2000. Since that time, she has treated a multitude of clients suffering from back pain. She invites you to check out her website and join the WhyMassageTherapy eClub for regular site updates and blog postings.

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