More than 80% of people will experience back pain during their lives. That means that most of us have had some experience with this common condition which can make it difficult to perform the daily tasks of living, as well as enjoy ourselves.
Causes of Back Pain
There are a variety of causes of back pain. Muscles, fascia, discs, and nerves can all contribute to the symptoms of pain. Muscles can become sprained and injured from overuse, becoming inflamed and painful. The fascia and ligaments can become stretched and not hold the bones in their correct position. Disks can collapse, allowing bone to rub on bone, and reducing the space that nerves have to exit. Then those nerves, being compressed, can send pain signals letting you know that something is wrong. This is often called sciatica. With all these variations, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of discomfort.
Back Pain and Muscles
Luckily, most causes of pain in the back are muscular in origin and can be helped with some gentle stretching. The job of the muscles is to keep the bones in their correct position, so even in cases where nerves are involved, tight or weakened muscles can contribute to bones being out of alignment, which can have an impact on the nerves.
We can think of the muscles that contribute to back pain as being in 4 groups. The muscles on the posterior side (on your back just next to your spine)- which include the Multifidus, Longissimus, Iliocostalis. These muscles control back extension and they are the ones that engage when you are bent over and want to return to a standing position. The next muscle in our grouping is the Quadaratus lumborum, which controls side to side motion. This muscle brings your hip up when you take a step, and contracts when you bend sideways. The next group is the muscles in the side of your hip, the gluteus medius, and minimus. These muscles control side-to-side hip motion. The final muscle group is the psoas and iliacus muscle, which control being able to flex your hip.
When any of these muscles become strained, that can refer pain into your lower back. So even muscles in the front of your body, or the side of your hip, can make you feel like you are having lower back pain around your sacrum. This is called a referral zone. The pain signals from the muscle overwhelm the spinal cord and make you feel like you are having pain from a different spot.
The Good News
Since most back pain is muscular in origin, stretching can have a real benefit. Being able to test each muscle group for length and strength can go a long way to figuring out the origin of your problem. At iFlex, our Stretch Therapists are trained to test each muscle group for length. Then they apply gentle stretches to lengthen the muscle and return it to normal function. Come into an iFlex Stretch Studio and let us help you get back to pain-free living!