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Low back pain

Biokinetics for low back pain

Low back pain is becoming more common among individuals of all ages, gender and activity levels. The most common cause of non-specific low back pain is weak core stabilising muscles and poor posture ².

The spine is made up of 33 individual bones called vertebra: 7 cervical vertebra of the neck. 12 thoracic vertebra of the trunk, 5 lumbar vertebra of the lower back and 9 fused vertebrae of the sacrum ¹. The vertebrae form a protective tunnel around the spinal cord from the brain down to the sacrum. Nerves exit the side of each vertebra to innervate specific areas of the body; these nerves can be found next to bone, muscle and ligaments ¹.

Spine anatomy

Structures of the spine

Vertebral discs are located in between each of the vertebra of the spine to act as shock absorbers during the force distribution the body experiences while we move about. There are also many ligaments and muscles running along the spine to support it and keep it aligned correctly ¹.

If there is an injury to any of the joints in the vertebrae or inflammation, this creates dysfunction – an interruption in the correct function of each muscle and joint in the spine. Most often this translates into muscle spasm and pain; because of this pain we tend to try avoiding using the affected muscle which in turn leads to disuse atrophy ³. The affected muscle becomes deactivated and unable to fulfil its function correctly, which in turn puts even more pressure on the other muscles and structures of the spine leading to further pain and dysfunction ³.

Biokinetics use the science of movement and exercise to find exactly which muscles need to be strengthened and which stretched in order to prescribe an exercise program to target these muscles and create a better balance between supporting muscles (the core) and the rest of the body. Exercises include flexibility work: stretching hamstrings, gluteals, quadriceps, muscles along the spine. Flexibility will improve the muscles’ ability to move more and thus allow the joints on either side to move better as well. Better movement leads to less pain and inflammation ². Strength work usually begins with self-awareness: being able to locate the deep core muscles, these include the pelvic floor muscles (Kegal exercises), the erector spinae and multifidi muscle groups alongside the spine and the gluteal muscles. Teaching the brain to activate these muscles is the first step in improving spinal stability so that all other movements have a strong foundation to work from ².

Most individuals feel a significant improvement within a few sessions of starting biokinetics if there are no other underlying conditions (these will be discussed in more detail in other posts).
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References used in this article

  1. Hamilton, N. & Luttgens, K. (2002). Kinesiology. Scientific Basis of Human Motion. [10th ed.] McGraw Hill.
  2. Houglam, P.A. (2005). Therapeutic Exercise for Muscoluskeletal Injuries [2nd ed.] Human Kinetics.
  3. Ulrich, P.F. (n.d.). Back Muscles and Low Back Pain. Retrieved on 5 January 2016 from http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/spine-anatomy/back-muscles-and-low-back-pain.