Is Your Low Back Pain Biased?
Once you’ve done a fair amount of living and put some ‘miles’ on your body, there is the possibility of some wear and tear. Whether you’ve been a physical laborer or led a relatively sedentary lifestyle; if you’re a vigorous exerciser, or perhaps have suffered a significant injury or had surgery, you may be one of the many people who live with some level of episodic back pain.
We in the medical profession like to categorize things and come up with a diagnosis. If we know what we’re trying to treat, then we can better help a person. However, when a diagnosis is very general, like low back pain, the term is so vague that it doesn’t provide any practical help for understanding what’s wrong or what we can do about it. Yes, something can be done about it.
Is your low back pain flexion biased or extension biased?
Flexion biased simply means that your back pain feels relief when you bend forward or round your back. In contrast, extension biased means that you get pain relief when you bend backward or increase the arch in your back.
Why is this so important?
There are many exercises that are commonly prescribed or available on the Internet for people to use to manage their low back pain. It is common in our clinic for people to come in performing exercises that they learned or received, which have caused them to repeatedly move into positions that aggravate the pain that they intended to reduce or control. For mechanical back pain, when we perform exercise and movements that increase the intensity of the pain that we want to eliminate, we are actually chafing or aggravating the tissues that are irritated.
Extension-Biased Example: Standing with the palms of your hands on the small of your back and arching your back backwards can be an important exercise for an individual who has extension-biased back pain. But the person who has a flexion-biased back pain will tend to find that this movement makes their condition worse, and they are less mobile and less comfortable to get around.
Flexion-Biased Example: Sitting in a chair with feet apart, gently bend forward and stretch downward. If this maneuver reduces the intensity of your pain and allows you to move about with more comfort, this is a good example of flexion-biased back pain.
Is Back Pain That Simple?
Sometimes. But sometimes it’s more complex than this. Physical therapy is a profession that is based on the science of movement. Today’s education requires a clinical doctorate. Examinations are thorough and are effective in understanding the source of the person’s mechanical back pain. No two people are alike, personality wise, physically, or psycho- emotionally. If your back pain doesn’t respond to selective guidelines, consider a professional consultation.
What’s the Catch?
Back pain is not always mechanical. When we have fear and apprehension about anything in life, we tend to avoid it. When people have sufficient fear and apprehension about their back pain, they tend to reduce or alter their activity to avoid potentially aggravating the pain. This can result in people withdrawing further and further from activity. Because we tend to become weaker and less flexible as we move less and less, the condition can spiral down into a worsening situation. We become more fearful and apprehensive, and the condition worsens further. Physical therapists are experts in evaluating, understanding and handling these kinds of conditions. The direction of the spiral can be reversed, and an individual can develop confidence in successfully learning to move again.
The Bottom Line
Without movement there is no life. That’s why our tagline is Movement for Life.
I hope you found this information helpful.
Billy Cioffredi, PT, Founder
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