Back pain – general information

Spinal pain is one of the most common health problems in the world.
In theory it is due to excessive stimulation of pain sensitive parts of the spine.
It can be associated with lumbar disc degeneration,
back trauma, disc arthritis, osteoporosis, ligament damage, infection and inflammatory type diseases.
However a large amount of the problem can be brought about by tight achy muscles that are the result of poor posture, giving rise to chronic latent acidosis.

Cigarette smoking also tends to aggravate back pain by increasing the ischaemia to the disc and by lowering the pain threshold.

Spinal misalignment is not always obvious if there is no back pain, and this can often be the case.
Restless legs, cramping or hot burning feet at night can all be signs of spinal nerve impingement.

Understanding the structure and composition of the disc can give a better understanding of what can go wrong.
The disc consists of:
– A gelatinous central nucleus, comprised of 80-90% water with proteoglycans, collagen fibres and elastic fibres.
– The annulus fibrosus surrounds the nucleus. It is made up of concentric collagen fibres interconnected with adjoining vertebral bodies.
– A cartilaginous end plate that separates the highly vascular cancellous bone of the vertebral body from the avascular intervartabral disc.

Disc degeneration occurs as the boundary between the nucleus and annulus becomes blurred, with the nucleus loosing water content and becoming more fibrous and fissured.

Inflammation further increases pain sensation by the release of prostaglandin E2 (which is known to sensitise the brain to pain).

GPs often prescribe the use of NSAIDs (Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs)
which inhibit the production of prostaglandins.
Similarly, more natural approaches are to suggest the use of Evening Primrose
oil or Fish oils which contain Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids,
which adjust the balance between those prostaglandins which control inflammation and those that prevent it.
In some cases herbals treatments can also be effective in this regard.

In many parts of NZ magnesium levels are extremely low and this causes, among other things, excessive muscle tension. If the muscles are in a state of tension then no amount of massage or manipulations are going to help for very long, as the muscle will very quickly go back into spasm and pull the spine back out of alignment.

The use of a magnesium supplement will often give a patient who has had continual back pain wonderful relief from spinal pain. As an added bonus you will often find that the accompanying constipation and at times heart fibrillations that are further effects of magnesium deficiency will disappear.
See page on Magnesium:Calcium ratio
This is best followed up by taking Colloidal minerals in the long term as the
overall mineral balance is better.

Glucosamine can assist in supporting the health of joints and ligaments, as can Green Lipped Mussel extract.  If taking either of these supplements take note that they need to be taken over a long period of time for good results to be obtained.
I personnally find the use of Green Lipped muscle extract to be more effective in most cases than Glucosamine but don’t use it if at all sensitive to sea foods or if you are prone to getting gout!

Flaxseed oil is also a very necessary and useful supplement if you are not already obtaining sufficient Omega 3 in your diet. Omega 3 improves the flow of blood through out the body and you will notice that the joints will move far more freely. A classic sign of Omega 3 being deficient in the body is the ‘clickyness’ of the joints, otherwise known as ‘crepitus’. About 1tbsp a day is necessary to correct this.

A further supplement that can be very effective where there is deep seated nerve pain present (as opposed to a more superficial muscle ache), is Vitamin B12. This needs to taken separately to a B complex, preferably on an empty stomach in order to improve absorption.

However none of these suggestions are going to help for very long or as effectively as they should if the posture is at fault. It is always of the utmost importance to attend to postural problems. Any number of approaches can be made to correct this. Yoga, Alexander technique, Feldenkrais, Rolfing can all help with posture or simply the good old fashioned ‘walking with a book on your head’ technique!