Lumbar Instability

Chronic lower back pain that seems to come and go can have many causes. Most people we see in our office have lower back pain that flares up from time to time. Every few months the back is overloaded with an event that seems trivial. 

Most of these cases of lower back pain can be categorized as instability of the lumbar spine. Conditions like: lumbar disc bulge or disc prolapse, lumbar disc herniation, lumbar spondylolisthesis, sprain of the ligaments of the spine, strain of the lower back muscles, or degenerative disc disease - all examples of a spine that is moving too much.

Lumbar instability is defined as a loss of structural integrity between two adjacent vertebrae resulting in excessive motion at those segments.

Some signs and symptoms of lower back pain caused by lower back instability are:

  1. Recurrent lower back pain.

  2. Pain relieved by rest or by wearing a back brace. 

  3. The lumbar spine pain recurs after trivial movement.

  4. Low back pain that is made worse by maintaining one posture for a long time. Prolonged sitting or standing.

  5. A painful arc in motion. Low back pain that increases with certain parts of bending forward or coming back up.

  6. A catch or even locking feeling coming from the lower back with certain movement.

  7. Lower back muscle spasm that occurs after an easy movement.

  8. Low back pain in an area previously involved in a trauma such as a car accident or sports injury.

Why does this happen?

Often as we age we lose core strength and “unlearn” how to properly engage the core as we move. The body is great at adapting to stresses that you put it under regularly. The body will learn certain patterns as you repeat it. The core muscles become detrained as you stop using them. Typically as a kid you are more active. When you reach college and then enter the workforce, you increase the amount of hours that you sit and decrease the amount of hours that you are active. Sitting for prolonged periods of time causes the person to turn off their core muscles and rely on the chair to hold their spine up. As you relax into the chair, the core and lower back muscles turn off and you begin to slouch in the chair. This leads to excessive stress on the ligaments and joints of the lower back leading to breakdown and pain.

As we become deconditioned, we start to bend and move differently. We’ve all heard the reminders to lift with your legs and not your back. As we age, we typically forget how to perform a normal hip hinge. This abnormal movement puts excessive stress on the ligaments and joints in the spine leading to breakdown and pain. 

In most adults, we have experienced some trauma and accumulated wear and tear associated with aging. Traumatic events like falling out of a tree as a kid, sports injuries from high school football, or the pounding taken from more recent hobbies like crossfit or marathon training - all help to irritate an unstable joint. 

Unfortunately there are a lot of adults who’ve been involved in a car accident. The trauma that can occur in a car accident can linger. The force from a rear-end automobile collision will send massive force into small joints of the lower back in a slightly different vector than the joints were designed to handle. If not treated appropriately, the lower back instability from a car accident will linger and can be a “weak spot” for years.

Treatment for these injuries involve decreasing muscle tension or lower back muscle spasm, mobilization of the joints of the lower back to restore normal range of motion in the lower back with chiropractic adjustments, and finally teaching you exercises to strengthen the appropriate muscles preventing future flare ups.

Most chiropractors in Boulder area focus simply on the symptoms and lower back pain. The problem is once you are out of pain, you need to strengthen the appropriate muscles in order to avoid having the same back pain in a few weeks or months.

At Boulder Sports Chiropractic, we use a number of treatment modalities to decrease the muscle tension or spasm with options like: Active Release Technique, Graston Technique, Trigger Point Dry Needling, or Class 4 Laser therapy. We provide chiropractic adjustments and we teach you how to be stronger to avoid future flare ups!

If you are experiencing lower back pain from a car accident, sports injury, or repetitve work injury - Come see why we’re different than your average Boulder Chiropractor and eliminate your low back pain for good.