Low back pain causes: Old injuries or surgeries

Back pain, Back surgery, Low back pain, Surgery, Understanding pain / Friday, October 9th, 2009

This is a series on low back pain. If you missed the summary of causes, go back to Part 1.

Often the cause of low back pain emerges after delving into a person’s past medical history and finding a forgotten injury or surgery. You wouldn’t think that something that happened when you were a young person so many years ago would cause a problem now!

Injuries that cause trauma to the soft tissue sometimes don’t heal normally, leaving scar tissue adhesions that distort the surrounding structures and prevent normal movement. Sometime those injuries cause joint misalignment as well, translating into nerve irritation that affects the muscles.

I treated a woman in her 30s who had terrible low back pain and had been treated medically with conventional and unconventional therapies without success. She finally remembered that she had fallen onto her hip skiiing many years ago. There had been a large bruised area and a lump that lasted for years. Some of the results of the trauma could still be felt under her skin as a bump. Not only had scar tissue formed and never resolved, the hip joint had been compressed and had been firing off mild distress signals all that time. With that information, we added hip traction to her Neuromuscular Therapy treatments for the muscles and scar tissue and her back got better!

Kids who play hard get hurt. Sometimes those hurts cause the body to compensate and move in ways that cause the muscles to become overworked and the joints distorted. Scar tissue adhesions can pull the whole network of connective tissue (fascia) out of line like a snag in a sweater. Sometimes the damaged tissue isn’t rehabilitated and eventually causes problems in movement or has to be used carefully to avoid pain from use that for a healthy muscle would not be too much. (I still have problems with my right leg from a double fracture 15 years ago and I had months of Physical Therapy.)

The same scenario applies to surgeries. During the healing process the tissue around the incision site changes and distorts any soft tissue connected to it. You can see the results on the skin with an indented scar and skin that doesn’t look like the skin around it. That happens beneath the skin too where muscles and fascia and blood vessels have been cut.

In my Neuromuscular Therapy center near Boston, the initial evaluation includes a medical history and exploration of any injuries or surgeries, even from years ago. They are often an underlying cause of low back pain.