Back pain: Have you suffered? by Fergus O'Connor

Posted on February 23, 2017 at 1:30 PM


Do you know about low back pain? If not you may find out about it at some stage: The facts are pretty grim:Up to 85% of working people can expect to experience low back pain during their lifetime. To put that in context that’s more than 8 out of 10 of us will experience low back pain.

The low back pain epidemic has been constantly increasing over the past few years and working as an Osteopath in Torontoover 70% of the cases I see are back pain related. Increased body weight, increased sitting, and less mobility and activity in our daily lives have all contributed. Sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950; physically active jobs now make up less than 20% of our workforce.

Tight muscles, poor muscles tone, muscles imbalance and incorrect posture develop as a result of our lack of activity and sitting habits. This can further contribute to and lead to more complications and probability of low back issues.

Am I at risk for low back pain?

As I mentioned working as a Manual Osteopath in Toronto, I see a lot of low back pain cases. A lot of patients I see have similar behaviors and risk factors which are adding to their issue. There are specific risk factors which make you more susceptible to suffering from low back pain. These include:

Age: The disks between the vertebrae wear away and shrink as we grow older. This can cause pain and stiffness as the bones start to rub against each other. Space around the spinal cord can also narrow as we age (Spinal Stenosis).

Fitness level: Regular exercise targeting the abdominal and back muscles can help in supporting correct posture and reducing the risk of suffering from low back pain. If you don’t exercise regularly then you are at an increased risk to suffer from back problems. The muscles supporting the spine are important in ensuring correct posture and alignment.

Weight: Being overweight or Obese increases the risk of low back pain. Added weight puts strain on the postural muscles and the supporting vertebrae.

Pregnancy: is also a risk factor, the combination of weight change, posture changes and stress increase a pregnant woman’s risk.

Occupational risk factors: Jobs involving pulling, pushing and manual labor have an increased risk of back injury. Also jobs involving a lot of sitting (unfortunately 80% of jobs today) can increase risk.

Psychological factors: It’s important to mention psychological factors as many people don’t consider this when thinking about low back pain. Attitude towards injury and recovery has been shown to have an effect on healing time.

How you can I prevent low back pain?

Prevention is better than cure as the old saying goes. There are many things you could be doing which can help ensure your risk of low back pain is reduced. Increasing your daily activity and losing some weight are 2 positive changes that can help.

Of course trying to reduce your stress and eat right will also help. Learn to relax better through some form of mediation such as mindfulness: Mindfulness mediation has been shown to reduce stress levels when used consistently. If you smoke consider quitting as smoking restricts the flow of nutrient-containing blood to spinal discs. Also sleeping position can be important if you suffer from low back pain. Observe your go to sleeping position each night and consider if it may be adding to your pain.

• Exercise: Still one of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of low back pain

• Diet: Ensure you are eating a balanced diet

• Reduce stress… try meditating

• Reduce weight: Start small and focus on the long term goal. If you need advice on how seek out a registered exercise professional.

• Quit smoking. The single best thing you can do for your health.

• Sleeping/sitting position. Consider making changes to either/or if needed.




Treatments for low back pain: Osteopathy and Exercise

“There’s more than one way to skin a cat”.

There are 100s of protocols, treatments, ointments, “cures” and techniques available that say they can heal your pain. However below is a selection of techniques that I have personally found to be most effective in my practice and experience:


Manual Osteopathic treatments are effective for low back painand one of the more successful manual therapies that can offer relief. We offer Osteopathic treatments in Toronto, contact us for an appointment todayif you are in pain.


Physical activity is one of the ways to prevent osteoporosis which is often cause in low back issues. Also rehab and therapeutic exercise protocols to develop and strengthen the core muscles have been shown to be effective.


Sometimes just becoming aware of the position you are seated in for most the day or your sleeping position can make a big difference. Are you mistreating your spine by holding it in these extended uncomfortable positions throughout the day? Minor changes can over time lead to major improvements.

Do what works for you

There are specific muscles which support the low back and there are many specific back treatment protocols. There also exists a huge variety of exercises which target low back pain. But there is no one fits all treatment when it comes to managing and recovering from low back pain. I’ve worked in a variety of practice settings and seen many causes and types of low back pain, some which have responded well and others which have not. Look for an approach that is individualized to you and your situation, not a standard protocol that is applied across the board.


 Fergus is a Manual Osteopath and Certified Personal Trainer with over 16 years of experience in Osteopathy, therapeutic exercise, manual therapy, personal training and exercise rehabilitation. He is the owner of Osteofitrehab in Toronto.


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