Low back pain: a hidden epidemic

If you think our title choice is bit too dramatic, consider that:

  • Roughly 80 percent of the population suffers from low back pain
  • It’s the leading cause of job absenteeism
  • It’s the second most common reason for doctor visits (after upper respiratory tract infection)
  • Low back pain costs $1 billion per year in medical expenses

…and this is just a sampling of low back pain-related reality.

The first step towards addressing this epidemic is to understand why it happens. While we typically hear about bulging or herniated discs, there are studies that show no disc degeneration in patients with low back pain. Conversely, a large percentage of patients with visible herniations do not experience low back pain at all!

Reality: Your low back pain just may be originating in your hips. 

At Oak Point Health and Vitality Centre, we use a big picture approach to find the source of your pain and have discovered that many of our low back patients actually have dysfunction of their hip muscles. These muscles tend to not fire which causes abnormal distribution of forces and, in turn, low back pain. 

For example, both the TFL and Glute Medius muscles are important hip stabilizers. They work synergistically whenever we walk, squat, run, etc. If these muscles stop firing (i.e. the nerve sends the signal for the muscles to work but the muscle does not respond), other muscles have to kick in for us to perform a movement.

Like other forms of substitution, the result is often a decrease in effectiveness. Let’s say the Cleveland Cavaliers take LeBron James out of a game for a breather. A sub will fill in but he won’t perform nearly as well as LeBron. When bio-mechanical substitution is used thanks to your hip muscles not firing, this causes chronic maladaptation (faulty movement patterns). If not corrected, maladaptation could result in herniations and other spine/low back issues and thus: pain.

Solution: At Oak Point, we find and treat the area of dysfunction before treating the actual area of pain. By doing so, we ensure that the patient moves better and is actually relying on -- “recruiting,” if you will -- the proper muscles to perform everyday activities.

After your Acupuncture and/or Massage Treatment, we’ll make sure to send you off with powerful and useful “homework” in the form of exercises that will strengthen the previously inhibited muscles and keep them active.


Written by Dimitri Boules LAc, LMT, CPE, CPT