Recently, I’ve come across many people who mention that they have “tweaked” something in their lower back. The other day as I was walking through the gym, I crossed paths with a man who looked completely “healthy” on the outside. When allowing him to walk in front of me, he says: “Go ahead, I’m taking my time because of a bad back.” Instantly, I asked him about it. His reply was that of many who tend to ignore their pain. “Oh, it’s nothing – I just did something to it.” This conversation prompted this current blog post.

What causes lower back pain?

Numerous factors come into play as to why Montgomery County residents experience pain in the lower back and sciatic nerve irritation. First, we will talk about the discs in our lower back and their role, but we must start with the structure of our spine. In our lower back, also called our “lumbar” region, there are five vertebrae. In between each vertebra, we have a disc. These discs act as support and work much like shock absorbers in a car. When we look at the disc, the outer layer is called the annulus fibrosus. This is durable compared to the disc’s inner contents, the nucleus pulposus, which is more of a gel-like consistency. When the outer layer is compromised, it allows the interior gel-like substance to bulge out of its normal limits giving it freedom to touch the nerves which come out of your lower back. When this happens, the substance irritates the nerves, causing localized low back pain, and radiating pain down the leg.

If the sciatic nerve is compromised elsewhere, independent of low back pain, we must look at other locations, but more commonly the piriformis muscle, located in the buttock region. When aggravated, this muscle can press against the sciatic nerve, causing the same symptoms to radiate down your leg and into your feet. Injury or overexertion to the muscle can cause this.

What’s interesting about back pain is that other joints, called your facet joints, can almost mimic these other symptoms. With facet joint dysfunction, the joints may become inflamed and irritated, causing localized pain and tenderness in your low back. Pain is usually worse while leaning back versus leaning forward. This particular low back pain can radiate into the buttock region and to the upper part of the back of the thigh, as well. This is important in understanding what the issue may be and is helpful in diagnosing low back pain with symptoms that go down the buttock or leg. As for the other types of low back pain, we must also consider the other possibilities of muscle spasm, muscle strain, or ligament sprain.

So although the guy at the gym looked healthy on the outside, did that mean on the inside, his spine and other structures were in good health?

Perception of Pain
As we know, our perception of pain comes from only 10% of nerve fibers. So what happens to the other 90% of the nerve communication? It is compromised yet you may never realize it until the 10% reaches your brain to tell you that there was even pain somewhere in the first place. The other 90% is responsible for other communications between your body and brain, which includes different functions of various tissues and organs.

So to recap, spinal misalignment can cause localized pain or nerve irritation. Only 10% of nerves reach our brain to tell us there is pain. The other 90% of functioning nerves may be compromised as well, resulting in decreased function or health of other areas of your body. To properly correct this problem, we must take action.

Here are a few key points:

1) Do not ignore your pain (This is not specific only to back pain – it can be pain anywhere in your body)

2) If you’re a frequent gym goer or a weekend warrior, take care of your health, not just your outside physical self, but everything on the inside!

3) Remember that your spine houses your nervous system. When your spine is compromised, and your nerves are unhappy, that leads to unnecessary pain. Pain can transform your attitude towards yourself, others, or a task at hand, so get it corrected before it affects your life in other ways!

Please check back in the future as we will be covering specific conditions that we treat, many of which people lack understanding. If there is a particular condition you are interested in learning about and would like to learn more regarding how Chiropractic can help, please email or message us on Facebook! As always, make sure to “LIKE” and share our posts if this can help you or a loved one.

~Dr. Asuncion