17/08/2015 Gavin

Why do I have a weak back? (Part 2)

In Part 1, I dealt with the muscular “weak core” argument; and the reality that having a sore back may lead to a weak core, but that there’s no evidence that having a weak core leads to a sore back – read that sentence again more slowly if you have to 😉

Why else do you have a “weak back”?  Well, if by “weak back” you mean “Why does my lower back pain seem to flare up for very little (or sometimes no) extra load?” then part of the answer has to include a bit of the neurophysiology of pain.  I know I’ve often gone off on some long boring explanation when it comes to the sciencey stuff, but I promise to hold myself “back” from the temptation (pun intended).

When you experience pain, particularly severe or recurring pain, your nervous system can become sensitised, and the collection of nerves involved in your experience of lower back pain (or any other body part for that matter) develop a lower threshold for “firing”.  Also, nerve fibres coming in from your body into the spinal cord which tell your brain about where the different bits of your body are and how they’re moving can start to make connections with your “pain pathways” in the spinal cord.  So your brain – instead of receiving information about position and movement – can receive danger messages.  These danger messages can ignite your “pain neurotag” in your brain (a neurotag is a collection of nerves which – when they fire together – represent pain in a particular body part and your brain’s immediate response to that).  Oh no!  I said I wasn’t going to get all sciencey… sorry 🙁

So, basically if you’ve had pain for a while you are more likely to be sensitive – not just for the muscular/joint reasons highlighted in Part 1, but also because of changes in your nervous system that make you more sensitive.  Remember – no brain, no pain!  Some people get to the point where any movement at all (especially of the body part in question) ignites their pain neurotag – even very minor movements which clearly can’t be causing any actual damage.

But don’t worry, there are answers if you develop this level of sensitivity.  Make an appointment to come and see me and I can help you work through this.

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