PART 7: LOW BACK PAIN
In the Seventh part of the Runners Series, we discuss the pain and problems associated with low back pain. Through this article, you will identify characteristics associated with pain in the back, sciatica, and numbness.
If you missed the previous parts of the Runners Series and would like to learn how to avoid these injuries, click on the links below:
Running programs are designed to challenge physical efforts to improve performance. At times, it is difficult to self-assess and determine when longer recovery periods are more necessary than others times. Problems that may arise from overtraining include low back pain, sciatica, and numbness/tingling.
These three types of problems are most commonly influenced by irritation or poor loading strategies that affect the intervertebral disc; some may affect the nerve roots or peripheral nerves but that is less common than conditions that affect the disc. The disc has sensitive neurologic properties that can elicit pain in the low back, down the buttocks into the leg, or produce symptoms such as numbness.
LOW BACK PAIN
Pain in the low back can be elicited by overstraining, poor repetitive loading strategies, sudden moments that include large amounts of force, or fatigue that is ignored and is continually loaded.
Low back pain can lead to difficulty in moving, running, walking, standing, rising, bending forward, or muscle spasms. Muscle spasms are commonly presented with acute cases of low back pain that make the pain intolerable. However, the intensity of the pain does not reveal the severity of the problem. The intensity of the pain demonstrates how much the patient can tolerate.
The severity of the condition is illustrated by the location of the symptoms. Pain that travels the down the leg further away from the spine is a worse prognosis. Pain that remains centralized in the low back with no symptoms down the leg is good prognosis.
A medical term that majority are familiar with is Sciatica. Automatically, the term sciatica creates an understanding of someone experiencing leg pain. However, many do not realize that there is a difference between having a peripheral nerve disorder vs. a central nerve root disorder or disc bulge which can all elicit pain down the leg using the sciatic nerve as mode of transmission for the symptoms.
Peripheral nerve disorders can be classified as nerve injuries to nerves that originate or are formed in the legs or arms. Central nerve root disorders are classified as nerve injuries to nerves that originate along the spinal column. Both types of injuries can elicit pain down the leg; understanding what you are dealing with will ultimately help you recover without wasted time and failed treatments.
NUMBNESS / PINS & NEEDLES / TINGLING
Experiencing Numbness, Pins & Needles, or Tingling may be frightening when you experience these symptoms. These symptoms are commonly associated with some irritation to a neurological structure, whether nerve or disc. However, these symptoms can also be elicited with poor circulation or decreased blood flow.
Running with overly tight shoes that inhibit proper circulation to the feet may lead to numbness, pins & needles, or tingling. As runners increase their mileage during long runs, their feet may begin to slightly swell which may increase the feeling of tight shoes leading to improper circulation. Appropriate shoe fitting is necessary to avoid this from happening, but it is seen in runners given the arduous training. But continued restriction of blood flow to the feet will ultimately lead to these symptoms. In this situation restoring sensation of the feet will be dependent on restoring appropriate blood flow to the area.
In cases of Numbness, Pins & Needles, or Tingling associated with neuro structures; the fix isn’t always as simple as loosening up the shoe laces. The symptoms are dependent on the area of concern whether it be a peripheral, central nerve problem or a disc bulge.
Understand the Difference Between Temporary Relief Vs. Resolution to the Problem
This may be difficult as low back pain and associated symptoms are challenging to self- assess. Use these guidelines to help:
- Do You have Symptoms Down Your Legs or Symptoms Only in the Back?
- Are your Symptoms Constant or Intermittent?
- Does your Pain Travel & Move or Does It Stay Only in One Spot?
- Is it Rapidly Improving, Worsening, or Staying the Same?
WHAT TO DO
If you do not have any symptoms down the legs and your intermittent pain remains centralized to the low back, perform gentle stretching, be active performing light activities that help you avoid any leg symptoms. In this case, if the symptoms are constant, a higher likelihood of inflammation is present; therefore, anti-inflammatories such ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin are good measures to help. Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure any contraindication to taking over the counter anti-inflammatories. Should a period of 2-3 weeks pass with you continually experiencing pain, please visit your healthcare provider.
If you have leg symptoms that are intermittent or constant, please visit your healthcare provider immediately to quickly help you get in the right direction. Symptoms that travel away from your low back into the legs illustrate a worse prognosis. Majority of the times, these cases require medical intervention with rehab, mechanical therapy, or some kind of medication. In worse cases, prolonging this type of pain into the leg may require a cortisone injection if conservative measures cannot be introduced within a reasonable time from onset. A combination or single method of intervention can be utilized only after the presentation has been classified identifying the underlying issue.
Some Temporary Methods of Relief:
- Foam rolling
- Reduce or Restrict Running
If you or someone you know struggles with include Low Back Pain, Sciatica, and Numbness/Tingling, please give us a call. We help people who suffer from all types of physical injuries.
We are Dedicated to Get You Better Through Movement…
For Appointments Call (219)-310-8822
Dr. Artemio Del Real DC, Cert. MDT, CSCS