Mechanical Low Back Pain

Mechanical Low Back Pain

Low back pain is a widespread affliction involving impaired functioning of the normal mechanics of the lumbar (low back) muscles, connective tissues, ligaments and joints, often causing pain and discomfort.

Low back pain’s highest prevalence is postural/functional based, there may also be genetic predispositions. It ultimately involves some form of improper bio-mechanics. This altered function of the normal mechanics of the body affects the muscles, tendons, connective tissue, joints and ligaments of the low back resulting in pain and discomfort.

Trauma – injury to the lower back from a physical source e.g. sports injury, slipping on a wet surface, motor vehicle accident or lifting a heavy object. This may result in a fracture of the vertebral structures.

Repetitive Strain Injury – can occur from activities which require a high quantity of repetition or from maintaining fixed, awkward positions for extended periods of time.

Poor Posture – excessive lordosis (sway back) is the most common cause of postural low back pain. It may result from pregnancy, slouching, wearing high heels, or from standing in a rigid military posture. These will contribute to muscle fatigue, an increased pelvic angle that results in prolonged stretching of the abdominal muscles and an altered displacement of load forces through the joints and connective tissues.

Tension – the musculature of the low back may be tight and inflexible due to stress and emotional tension. This reduced flexibility makes the individual more prone to low back injury and pain, and can be a result of everyday occurrences such as sneezing, coughing or getting out of a car.

Muscle Imbalance- when the abdominal muscles are weakened and the low back muscles have to do excessive work, when the pelvic muscles are hypertonic and putting excessive strain on the pelvis resulting in malalignment of the pelvis.

Sciatica-the compression of the peripheral nerve root due to compression by a disc protrusion even in the spinal canal itself.

Pseudosciatica/Piriformis Syndrome – which is very similar to sciatica, but far easier to treat as it is often trigger points found in the piriformis muscle which is producing the referred pain down the leg similar to sciatica.

Degenerative Disorders:
Degenerative Disc Disease
Disc Herniations


Pregnancy – the changes to the body are incredible during pregnancy, the shifting of the center of gravity while the release of hormones which loosen the ligaments in the body and consequently muscle guarding and spasms are just a few of the dramatic changes.

Obesity – The resulting weakness of the abdominal muscles, increased compression of the facet joints and altered

Scoliosis – A lateral curvature in the spine. The two types: Structural: which may be congenital. Non-structural: due to postural problems, leg length discrepancy or other compensatory factors.

Preventative Measures for Low Back Pain:
While Standing – place a box or stool under one foot or standing on a ergonomic mat.

While Sleeping – lie on your back on a medium mattress with a pillow underneath your knees, or sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs to minimize the stress through the hips and pelvis. Sleeping on your stomach increases the lordosis of the lumbar spine and puts excessive pressure on the low back.

While Sitting – sit straight back in chairs with lumbar support. If there is no lumbar support, place a small pillow in the small of the back to maintain the natural lumbar curve. Your feet should be supported, never hanging. You may need to lower or raise the chair and place a stool under your feet.

While Lifting – when lifting or bending below waist level:
bend knees to reach object
hold object close to your body
straighten your legs to bring you to erect posture

Consult your physician for a comprehensive diagnosis in order to decide on the best treatment plan. Your Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) will assess, evaluate and provide a treatment plan for your specific condition. Massage Therapy plays a key role in low back pain rehabilitation by decreasing muscle spasm and pain, restoring pain-free range of motion, releasing active trigger points, minimizing adhesions, correcting muscle imbalances, and eliminating inflammatory by-products. RMTs provide postural and relaxation techniques as well as active therapeutic exercises which patients can consciously apply to break the stress/tension pain cycle. Treatment of low back pain varies depending on the individual needs of the person and whether the condition is acute, sub-acute or chronic.

Acute Low Back Pain – sudden onset of severe pain with accompanying muscle spasm and inflamation.

Chronic Low Back Pain – Recurring pain or pain which has persisted for three months or longer.
There may a shift from chronic to acute should there be any occurrence that may increase the symptoms of muscle spasms and inflammation.

Recurrent Low Back Pain – pain which recurs in the same area periodically. The pain may occur following an injury or due to poor posture, muscle tone or spinal alignment.

Research – Research studies show that Massage Therapy is effective in the treatment of soft-tissue disorders. According to the Quebec Task Force on Spinal Disorders, “Massage (therapy) is the most frequently used therapy for musculoskeletal problems, and is particularly useful in controlling pain”.*

Learn more at Mayo Clinic and Wikipedia.

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