As a chiropractor, I’m sure you would think my number one answer would be “it needs an adjustment”. Not necessarily. In fact, in many cases the low back hurts because it is moving too much. In this series I’ll walk you through five reasons your low back might be hurting.
Note: the reasons are in no particular order, and you may have more than one reason involved in your particular case.
Reason One: Your upper back isn’t moving enough.
Your body consists of alternating areas of mobility and stability. The ankle wants to be mobile, the knee wants to be stable. The hip wants to be mobile, the low back wants to be stable. That’s right, the low back doesn’t want a lot of mobility, especially not into rotation.
Why doesn't the low back like rotation?
Let’s take a look at the anatomy of the spine. Where each vertebrae meets its neighboring vertebrae there is a facet joint.
In the lumbar spine (your low back) you can see that the facet joints have a vertical orientation. If you rotate the vertebrae against each other the facets have nowhere to go. Not ideal.
In the thoracic spine (your mid and upper back) the facet joints have a more horizontal orientation. If you rotate these vertebrae against each other, they slide nicely.
In a perfect world, you are getting most of your trunk rotation from your thoracic spine.
However, in the real world, what I find in the thoracic spine is:
This leaves the lumbar spine to pick up the slack. Do you think your low back facets like rotating into each other? Not so much. In fact, they may start complaining.
Just treating the symptoms may give you temporary relief, but treating the cause is what ultimately gets you out of pain long-term. This is why I look at the body as a whole, not just the parts that hurt.
But let’s not stop there. The next step is figuring out WHY your thoracic spine is so locked up in the first place.
Let me assess how you are moving, how you are holding yourself throughout the day. Often this lack of upper back mobility can be resolved with some simple postural cues and exercises. Then, your low back finally has a chance to relax.