Did you know that 50-80% of adults experience back pain in their life? 40% have back pain in any year. These stats tell us that back pain is NORMAL. However, it is one of the most common causes of disability in the working population with associated medical costs that represent 7% to 34% of total societal costs.
What are the risk factors of low back pain? The following increase your risk of experiencing low back pain in your lifetime:
History of low back pain
Heavy or frequent lifting, whole body vibration (ex. driving), prolonged or frequent bending/twisting and postural stresses
The MOST COMMON association with low back pain is poor sitting posture and frequent flexion
Sometimes your low back pain may have associated leg pain, numbness or tingling associated with it. Why/how does this happen? Over time, depending on our daily habits and our job we may spend a lot of time with our spine in a flexed position (sitting, driving, bending over repeatedly, etc.).
When our spine is exposed to this flexed position repetitively, it is exposed to micro tears in our intervertebral discs (the soft parts in-between our vertebral bodies that absorb shock). The micro tears usually tear postero-laterally, so towards the back.
These intervertebral discs are like donuts, with jelly inside called the “nucleus pulposus”. Over time, these micro tears can lead to a larger tear with one small or large incident, like picking up a pencil off of the ground. Ow! You have pain receptors on the outer ⅓ of these discs, so you usually don’t feel the pain until these tears have worked their way well through to the outer disc. You may feel a sharp pain in your back and sometimes pain, numbness or tingling down your leg.
Sometimes, the tears have let that “jelly” squeeze out and irritate your nerve. Then, often when you flex forward, bend, sit, cough, sneeze (any motion that flexes your spine) will further cause irritation of your nerve. Does this sound similar to what you are experiencing? Read on…
Now we will get to good stuff!
Do you experience low back pain with or without radiating leg pain or sciatica? Try this easy at home exercise! The McKenzie protocol focuses on exposing your spine to EXTENSION exercises to “push that jelly back into its’ home” and relieve you of that nerve irritation.
**For complete and proper usage of this McKenzie protocol, please see a certified Chiropractor for a full assessment. This will lead to the best results**
See images below for examples
Lay face down
Prop up onto your elbows. How does your back and leg feel? It may be uncomfortable in your low back (THIS IS NORMAL AND OKAY). Your spine is not used to this type of extension.
Next, prop up onto your hands. Take a deep breath in and out at the top. Let your tummy sag down towards the table. Assess how your low back and legs feel. If the low back is uncomfortable, this is NORMAL. If the leg symptoms did not worsen or go further down the leg, repeat this motion 10-12 times.
Our goal is to centralize the pain into our backs and out of our legs, relieving that nerve of its irritation. This means that the leg symptoms should start to go away or travel up towards our back.
IMPORTANT: If the leg symptoms ever travel more distally towards your toes or worsen, stop the protocol immediately. It may not be the right exercise for you.
If your leg symptoms are improving with this exercise, perform 5-6 sets of these spread throughout your day.
Again, this is a simplified version and explanation. Please see your local chiropractor to learn more!