If you spend hours walking and standing while attending Mardi Gras, don't be surprised if you suffer back pain soon afterwards. But why does standing for long periods of time cause some people's lower (lumbar) back to hurt while other people remain unaffected by back pain?
Respiratory infections send more people to the doctor than any other health problem in the U.S. Back pain is the second most common reason adults over 30 years of age visit their family physician. In fact, the number of people making appointments with a Louisiana chiropractor during and after Mardi Gras increases significantly in contrast to chiropractic appointments made at other times of the year!
To understand why your lower back hurts when you stand too long starts with knowing a bit about the anatomy of your back and spine.
Back and Spine Structures
Muscles and fibrous connective tissues called fascia compose the soft tissue components of your back. The "bony" part of your back is the spine. Vertebrae, facet joints, nerves, discs and the spinal cord all make up your spine. Facet joints are tiny, stabilizing joints found behind and between adjacent vertebrae. They help guide and restrict movements such as bending over and twisting around. Since facet joints are not constructed to withstand excessive amounts of pressure, standing on your feet for hours or walking several miles could put enough stress on these joints to cause back pain.
Aging Facet Joints and Lower Back Pain
Facet joints are lined with a cushion-like layer of cartilage to prevent bones from scraping against each other. As you age, facet joint cartilage naturally thins, dries out and loses its ability to cushion tiny facet joint bones. When wear and tear or osteoarthritis degrades cartilage, the result is called "bone on bone articulation", or bone rubbing against bone.
Symptoms of early stage facet joint deterioration include:
Intermittent episodes of acute lower back pain
Tender spots overlying damaged facet joints
Guarding (some loss spinal muscle flexibility)
Discomfort when leaning backwards
Pain that radiates into the hips, buttocks and front of your upper legs
Advanced facet joint wear and tear sometimes leads to formation of bone spurs or facet joint swelling, which exacerbates back pain and makes it more difficult to walk, sit or bend.
Other reasons for lower back pain after standing or walking for lengthy periods could involve tense or strained muscles (muscle spasms), a bulging or ruptured disc, sciatica or spinal stenosis.
How Chiropractors Diagnose Low Back Pain
Persistent low back pain should be assessed by your chiropractor to determine if the condition is temporary or chronic. During your first appointment at Geaux Chiro, your chiropractor will evaluate your ability to walk, stand, lift your legs and sit without feeling pain. You may be asked to rate the severity of your back pain on a scale of one to 10. Additionally, your chiropractor will gently press on areas of your back to locate tender areas that could indicate inflammation and soft tissue swelling.
To further develop a precise diagnosis, your chiropractor may want x-rays, imaging scans and nerve studies that measure electrical impulses emitted by nerves in response to muscle movement. Nerve tests confirm whether a nerve compression condition exists, whether caused by spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), a herniated disc or vertebral subluxation (misaligned spine).
Chiropractic Techniques to Relieve Low Back Pain
Adjustments to the spine involve your chiropractor moving vertebrae back into their proper positions to eliminate nerve compression and back pain. An adjustment after you have spent a whole day standing and walking at Mardi Gras not only feels great but also increases blood circulation around injured areas and promotes release of endorphins, your body's natural, analgesic hormone.
Strained, knotted back muscles restrict circulation and prevent oxygenated blood from restoring muscle health. Massage therapy is extremely effective for easing pain, restoring blood flow to muscles and improving functioning of your nervous system.
Geaux Chiro in Southeast Louisiana offers drug-free, surgery-free pain relief the latest chiropractic techniques, physical therapy, nutritional guidance and preventive care. In addition to back pain, our chiropractors also treat all types of musculoskeletal and nervous system diseases and disorders--from hip, shoulder, knee and elbow pain to sports injuries, fibromyalgia and insomnia/fatigue. Call today to schedule an appointment or to learn more about our services.