Low Back Pain

Low Back Pain and Walking

Guidelines advocate pursuing treatment in the acute stage of low back pain conditions, rather than waiting for it to become chronic. Getting back pain better quickly is a top priority for patients. Osteopaths have other goals for the patient’s body too. By relieving the back pain quickly Osteopaths are aiming to avoid stress and compensation patterns on other joints muscle and ligaments. Low back pain compensation patterns can cause more pain in the hip’s, knees, ankles and leave the patient suffering with another painful condition to deal with.

In a study performed in February 2020, researchers studied the lower limb kinematics (function) in 40 participants, half of whom had chronic back pain, using a special seven-camera device that monitored pelvic, hip, knee and ankle joint movements while walking. The data showed that individuals with chronic low back pain in all three lower extremity joints had significantly altered movement.

Another research study used a marker-based motion control device to evaluate 22 adults’ spinal kinematics (half with chronic low back pain) while walking along four parts of the spine: upper and lower lumbar (UL and LL) and thoracic (UT and LT). This experiment showed major variations in behaviour between the two groups.

Using an advanced measurement tool called statistical parametric mapping (SPM) to obtain a 3D visualisation of participants (20 with vs. 20 without low back pain), yet another test established altered patterns of motion for people with low back pain.

Such experiments indicate that individuals with back pain display altered walking kinematics and may be the body’s reaction to pain avoidance. But doing so can put extra stress on certain areas of the body, such as the thighs, knees, and ankles, which can contribute to secondary conditions. On the other hand, there is the risk that in the lower extremities pre-existing instability resulted in irregular activity due to a lower back injury.

Either way, these findings underscore the importance of examining the entire patient to identify any and all problems that may contribute to their low back pain, something that Osteopaths are trained to do to achieve the best outcome for each patient.

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