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Sheltering Arms Blog

Use it or Lose it, the Lumbar Spine System

Posted on: July 27, 2020 by Clinicians Editor

By: Matt Wren, PT, MSPT

Low back (or lumbar spine) pain is a common medical condition. It is inevitable that almost all of us will experience some type of lumbar-region pain in our lifetime.

There are numerous causes of low back pain such as lumbar disc problem, degenerative arthritis, nerve impingement, or just a good old fashioned muscle spasm or strain. But are these conditions really the true causes of low back pain, or are they the consequences of things that we do to ourselves?

It’s true that traumatic injury to the lumbar spine is difficult to predict and to prevent. Fortunately for us, most of these issues resolve with time and conservative care.

Degenerative changes of the spine due to age-related arthritis will naturally occur in all of us. We get shorter with time because the lumbar discs dehydrate and lose thickness, our spines get stiffer, and bone changes occur. At the same time, lumbar spine age-related changes can be self managed with appropriate and regular exercise routines.

Disuse or deconditioning is a sleeper injury of the lumbar spine system. These are common injuries that occur when people are relatively inactive such as those with a sedentary occupation (administrators, computer IT personnel, etc.) and those who travel by car or plane for a living. We were designed to move, not sit. Over time these folks tend to sink into poor postural habits, lose critical flexibility and strength of the trunk and legs, and generally decondition themselves. Basically, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

The cumulative result of theses sleeper factors sets up the lumbar spine system for injury. When people suddenly decide to participate in physical activity such as gardening or a weekend warrior sporting activity, they wind up injuring themselves, flaring up an old injury or discovering an age-related change of the spine. Surprise!

The key to preventing low back pain is a long-term dedication to a well-rounded physical activity program that includes flexibility and strengthening of the legs and trunk muscles and regular aerobic activity.

From developing an exercise program to prevent a lower back injury to recovering from one, Sheltering Arms therapists can help you. Click here to learn more.