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Low Back Pain: Why does it 'pop up' out of nowhere?

Learn about low back pain and how it develops over time

Have you ever heard of someone getting injured by a piece of paper?  Yes, a single sheet of plain white paper.  I'm not talking about paper cuts, I'm talking about a case of major low back pain. 

What I'm about to explain is a very common occurrence:  A man wakes up in the morning and feels one hundred percent normal.  He goes about his business, accidentally drops a piece of paper onto the floor, bends down to pick it up and BAM! low back pain strikes, crumbling him to the ground onto his hands and knees.  This is serious.  That's why I've set up a petition to Congress asking them to abolish paper.  Who needs paper anyway in this digital world?  We could solve our healthcare cost dilemma in one single move!  Besides the common cold, low back pain is the most frequent reason for trips to the doctor, soaking up huge amounts of our taxpayer dollars. 

Of course I'm kidding about paper causing low back pain.  I have no ill will towards paper, but as a physical therapist, I consider low back pain my mortal enemy.  And while I portrayed that scene with my tongue in cheek, in truth many people hurt their backs simply by bending down to reach something.  Or do they?

Does it make sense that something as light as a piece of paper would cause you to have back pain from picking it up from the floor?  Of course not, but I see people in my office that tell me similar stories when explaining to me how their back pain started.

The reality for many of these cases is that they occur very slowly over time and they go unnoticed until pain signals you that something is wrong.  Most low back pain occurs due to factors you can control with some help.  The two biggest factors are posture and movement.  Most low back pain is a result of the postures you stay in and the types of movements you do, with an emphasis on the repetitive movements you perform frequently.

Over time, these two forces (posture and movement) shape your musculoskeletal system.  They make muslces strong or weak, long or short, or stiff or flexible.  They do the same to the actual joints, making them stiff in certain directions but very flexible in another. 

All of this added together over time can turn a healthy joint, or in this case your low back, into an injury waiting to happen.  Then all it takes is one more forward bend to pick up a lousy piece of paper and there goes the back.  In these cases it may seem like the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.  Now you know better.

If you have low back pain, see a physical therapist.  We are the experts in posture and movement.  Many of these types of low back pain are easily correctable with treatment.

As always comments and questions are encouraged.  For more information check out our website www.nextsteppt.com where you can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter for even more information on health, wellness, fitness and injury prevention.

Yours in Health,

Chris Ostling PT, DPT

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Regis C. May 23, 2012 at 06:00 PM
I've been in PT for the last 3 weeks since throwing out my back by bending over while doing dishes. Of course I lie and say it was something much more heroic, but it was the worst pain I ever felt. A painful reminder to stretch every day and to stay in shape. The warning sings were there, then bam!
Chris Ostling PT, DPT May 23, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Thanks Regis As you can see we don't make this stuff up. Glad to hear you are getting treatment Chris

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