INTRODUCTION TO BACK INJURIES
This series on injuries serves to highlight a few common, every-day injuries and provide some background. Any physical damage should be dealt with by a medical practitioner or trained physiotherapist, who will recommend if any specialist intervention is required.
This is not an exhaustive list and does not contain comprehensive detail. The selection of injuries will be added to on an ad hoc, but regular basis.
A quick look at lower back injuries
Back injuries occur in the upper, middle and lower back. Lower back pain is often termed “strain in the lumbar region”. The lumbar spine consists of 5 movable vertebrae numbered L1-L5. The lumbar spine is designed to be incredibly strong, protecting the highly sensitive spinal cord and spinal nerve roots. At the same time, it is highly flexible, providing for mobility in many different movements including flexion, extension, side bending, and rotation.
Strains are defined as tears (partial or complete) of the muscle-tendon unit (and the muscle itself). Muscle strains and tears most frequently result from a powerful muscular contraction during an excessively forceful muscular stretch. Do note, that muscle tightness may feel like a strain, but may not necessarily be one.
Any spinal muscle in the back and its associated tendon can be involved, although the most susceptible muscles are those that span several joints. When suffering from back injuries, folk can experience either acute or chronic lumbar strain. Acute pain is most intense 24 to 48 hours after injury. Chronic strains, on the other hand, are characterised by continued pain due to muscle injury.
Worldwide, lower back pain (LBP) is the second most common symptom (after headaches) that causes patients to seek medical attention in the outpatient department of a hospital. Approximately 70% of adults have an episode of LBP as a result of work or play, with a major portion in South Africa as a result of vehicle collisions.
Common symptoms include pain which is spread across the lumbar muscles, with some reaction in the buttocks. This is worsened during standing and twisting motions and even worse where there are active contractions and passive stretching of the involved muscle. Other symptoms are point tenderness, muscle spasm, possible swelling, a possible lateral deviation in the spine (spinal misalignment) with severe spasm and a decreased range of motion.
You can also read about ‘Exercising with lower back pain’ in another blog article on our site.