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I think my back is out- What does that mean?

Back Pain

“My back is out” or “I threw my back out playing __________ over the weekend” is a common phrase we hear in the clinic. But what does that mean? Does your back really go "out"?

When  "my back goes out”, you have essentially suffered a small sprain/strain of the muscles, joints, and ligaments of the back, meaning that you have caused small tears to the tissues in that region. The protective mechanisms of your body then start to kick in, tightening up the joints and muscles to prevent any more damage in the area that might occur from movement. The result of these small tears and protective mechanisms is pain, decreased motion, loss of function and the feeling that it is “out”, where the "out" feeling is the locking of the muscles and joints to prevent further injury and decreasing your ability to move. It is not a joint that has ‘moved’ or that has been put ‘out of place’, but rather the normal motion of the joint has been impaired by muscle/tendon/ligament damage, resulting in restricted, painful movement. 

* What causes my back to go out? *

Most of the time when our back goes out it is usually from a movement that we didn’t properly prepare our body for. This could be bending over to tie our shoes and we feel a twinge in our back, picking something up off the floor, or swinging a golf club and get a feeling like our back ‘gives out’. All of these movements are defined as sudden, unguarded movements that predispose you to injury. The tissues (muscles/tendons/ligaments) are caught off-guard by this quick movement and don’t have time to properly adapt so they become over stretched and improperly used, resulting in injury.

* How do I get it “put back in place”? *

Remembering that when a back goes “out” it is just the restriction of movement of the muscles and joints due to tissue damage, so treatment of the issue is targeted towards the injured muscle and joint. Treatment is aimed towards calming down and relaxing the tight and painful muscle, with the goal being to restore it back to its normal resting state. Once the muscle has been relaxed, treatment to the joint is targeted through joint mobilization or joint manipulation. The chiropractor/physiotherapist attempts to restore normal joint motion through these techniques. Joint mobilization/manipulation does not fix the issue by “putting the vertebrae back in place”, but fixes the issue by providing a “quick stretch” to the tissues of the restricted area with the idea being that it 'resets' the joint and restores normal motion.

* How do I prevent my back from going “out”? *

Improving the muscular strength and endurance of the lower back is the most effective way to reduce the occurrence of low back pain. This can be achieved through low back exercises and core exercises. Proper lower back movement biomechanics when bending forward, working in the garden etc. is also key for reduction of back pain. The Physiotherapists and Chiropractors at Spine and Sports are well equipped to provide manual therapy techniques to improve the recovery of your low back episode through treatment of the muscles and joints, as well as prevent the episodes from happening again by providing you with the tools to make your back strong and healthy with rehabilitative exercise.

If you have any questions about your back, or any other part of your body, give us a call, send us an email, or come in for a quick conversation about what is going on. We are here to help!

 

William Powls, Chiropractor