Last Updated: 24 Jan 2016
The most common muscular skeletal weight bearing pain typically occur within the lower back for many. Whereas soft tissue and bone, or musculoskeletal tissue becomes compromised. Which include nerves, cartilage, disc, ligaments and tendons where localized swelling, soreness and aggravating and radiating pain occur.
Human studies and statistics have shown low back pain will account for more sick leave and disability time than any other single medical condition. Nearly 80% of all adults will experience back pain some time in their lives. It is for this reason it is important to understand how to take preventative and corrective measures to avoid, alleviate and timely treat weight bearing joint pain. Also recognize the difference between common causes of back pain, severity of condition and treatment course options.
Weight bearing and repetitive physical work pain is often medically defined as an acute or chronic pain condition that may be caused by injury, postural imbalance, repeated physical activity and diagnosed as a strain or sprain, or compression injury, or Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). A Repetitive Strain Injury is also known as Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD). Which has a compromised muscle-tendon relationship. Some cause examples of these pain disorders may be a result of the following activities: administrative work, gardening, biking, walking, jogging, running, sports, commercial painting, plumbing, electrical and other laborious work etc.
“There are also chronic nerve compression injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, radial tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome. In these cases, the spaces through which the nerves run are narrowed due to inflammation or fluids putting pressure on the nerves” (Kriskarr 2012).
Of course there are many pathological musculoskeletal compromise possibilities which could cause weight bearing or low back pain in vertebra joints. Some of the more familiar diseases of the back are: degenerative discs [wear & tear on between vertebra space], herniated discs, [swollen, and irritated overblown discs], spinal stenosis [narrowing of vertebrae canal presenting sciatica radiating numbness and pain down the leg].
Regardless, our focus is not to play doctor or learn all the possible causes of back pain. But instead to understand how to recognize and prevent unnecessary pain through prevention and seek corrective medical treatment when needed.
Poor ergonomic posture or laborious repetitive work or sedentary lifestyle combined with weight gain almost always put undue stress immediately on the low back. And when poor work and activity posture, footwear and overweight conditions are not addressed, it’s just a matter of time before weight bearing joints begin to ache, strain and become painful. If left uncorrected that pain will worsen, slow you down and increase risk of injury and put you out of commission.
The biggest difference between strains vs. sprain is the severity of injury and healing time. For instance sprains are typically long-term injuries which may or may not require surgery and almost always require physical therapy and rest to alleviate the compromised soft tissue condition.
Most of us are familiar, or have experienced a strained [overstretched] or sprained tendon, ligament or muscle. Sprains are often verified and substantiated using MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) equipment to determine exact locality, severity and corrective treatment for tissue damage. The technology can see the degree of partial or full tear of soft tissue sprain often associated with significant swelling and bruising of injury site. Whereas x-ray typically cannot and is mostly used to confirm broken and fractured bone and observe bone density health.
Many who experience weight bearing pain of the foot, ankle, knee, hip, back or neck don’t make the pain origin or cause connection. That pain cause is often the result of musculoskeletal postural misalignment. Whereas misalignment of musculoskeletal weighted posture starting at the feet cause imbalance and joint instability while walking, working and during exercise activity. And this condition often results in multiple radiating joint pain areas up the body’s trunk and can cause a painful limp.
The sole of the foot is like a tree root system. For instance, when the soil erodes from one side of a soil bank, the tree may begin to lean due to a breach of ground foundation stability. Then the roots on the opposite side grow and strengthen and absorb the stress to keep the tree growing upright.
Through time the trunk grows slightly offset to relieve stress on the compromised root system, but may cause the mid-line tree trunk to crack or snap during a heavy wind storm. Similar to upright walking posture, if walking with a painful lower back caused by a compromised foot foundation, if left uncorrected this condition will have an effect on an number of distal weight bearing joints [foot-to-knee-hip-back pain]. Whereas poor foot mechanics like the compromised tree root system make it likely to cause multiple joint pain and injury possibilities.
However it is possible with corrective insoles and supportive footwear to realign and balance body posture and completely alleviate stress and pain of other affected joints, even the neck and shoulders. In this case the corrective lift at the insole, or bottom of foot may realign the low back and neck vertebrae simultaneously while removing a painful limp caused by sciatica for example.
If any type of acute joint pain condition appears more frequent and severe, Pay Attention! It is important to remember weight bearing pain is often a result of unconditioned physical body, sedentary lifestyle, overweight condition and improper footwear, or disease. The good news is it can be corrected if timely action is taken. Like a tire realignment, corrected foot mechanics can achieve the pain free goal.
Recommendations to treat weight bearing pain before it becomes chronic
- If experiencing acute weight bearing pain: a) “Apply Ice right away. Ice reduces inflammation and pain. Be careful not to use ice for more than 15-20 minutes, every 2 hours. Even though heat is used to ease tension & soreness, heat might cause more swelling in the first 2-3 days. b) “Place the ice on the painful area in a fanny pack while you are up and moving around. Apply ice consistently as long as you have swelling and pain.” c) “If you have diabetes or circulatory problems, limit applying ice and heat to 8-10 minutes.” d) “Take medication as directed. Common medications are acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (such as Motrin) and naproxen sodium (such as Aleve). In some cases, prescription pain medications may help. It may take 10 to 14 days of taking it as prescribed to be fully effective.”
Reference: (Kaiser Permanente Brochure Recommendations, Items 1, a-d)
Note: If you experience any abnormal pain seek medical advisement, diagnosis and treatment from your doctor immediately.
- Maintain Ideal Body Weight. Simply enter into any Internet search engine, BMI (Body Mass Index) use free calculator, enter your height and weight. This will give you an ideal of whether or not you’re underweight, normal or overweight for your current body mass stature. If too heavy over normal body weight for height, you’re at increased risk for weight bearing pain. Most specifically: foot, ankle, knee, hip, back.
Perform daily aerobic exercise to burn fat (e.g., bike, walk, aerobic dance exercise not less than 3/week @ 20-30min/day). When heart rate is increased for extended periods of exercise, the body's metabolism during aerobic activity burns more of the preferred fuel source from body fat.
Balanced nutrition: consume more fiber, drink more water and decrease total calorie intake daily. Remove high processed fat and sugar foods and drinks. Focus more on shopping and consuming fresh whole foods more in line with Mediterranean diet which contains plenty of fish, fruits and vegetables. Avoid fried foods if possible.
If your feet are in pain, the likelihood of sustaining daily aerobic exercise activity is greatly reduced. Seek a referral from your Primary Physician to get a diagnosis and treatment from podiatrist (foot specialist). See if your foot posture is the cause of your weight bearing pain.
Realize: a) In order to perform daily aerobic exercise activity will likely require good insoles and footwear to offset pain and lose weight. b) Don't pay $300-$1500/year for custom molded insoles out-of-pocket from your podiatrist if you don't have to. First try inexpensive insoles at a local pharmacy if your HMO has a high deductible. When you find a Dr. Scholes foot analysis machine: Simply stand on the free foot analysis imprint at the base of the machine to receive corrective insole recommended selection based on foot insole hot spot(s). However, do see your doctor to positively determine pain cause and origin, especially if the generic insoles don't work for you. If you do get a referral to podiatrist, decide if you want to try the inexpensive insoles before paying the cost of customized insoles. Especially if you have to pay over $50.00.
Do you need surgery or other treatment? Ask your doctor about Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS). "Electrical nerve stimulation is a procedure that uses an electrical current to treat chronic pain. Peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS) and spinal cord stimulation (SCS) are two types of electrical nerve stimulation. In either case a small pulse generator sends electrical stimuli that interfere nerve impulses to alleviate the pain" (WebMD 2014). "Reports show SCS use results in: 84% reported that their quality of life was improved or greatly improved, 77% had good or excellent pain relief, and 82% decreased their use of pain medications" (St. Jude Medical 2016).
Tens Therapy - electro muscular-stimulation can provide significant pain relief. Ask your doctor about obtaining a Tens unit through health care coverage, or if covered to receive electro muscular-stimulation physical therapy sessions. "Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy sometimes used to treat localized or regional pain. During TENS therapy, electrodes deliver electrical impulses to nearby nerve pathways' which can help control or relieve some types of pain. TENS is often used to treat osteoarthritis and chronic and postoperative pain" (Thompson 2014).
Tens units can also be purchased on-line, or provided by HMO.
Acupuncture - May also reduce chances of chronic back pain from occurring. "One of the largest studies to date on acupuncture and chronic pain, a meta-analysis of 29 well-conducted studies involving nearly 18,000 patients and published in October 2012 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that acupuncture is effective for treating chronic pain and therefore is a reasonable referral option" (Palermo 2015).
If acute back, or any joint pain seems abnormal or Intolerable, or you’ve recently experienced an injury consult your physician immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
Kriskarr. “What Is a Compression Injury?” VACUPRACTOR. Vacupractor, 23 Oct. 2012. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
Thompson, Jeffrey, M.D. “TENS Therapy: An Option for Fibromyalgia Treatment?” – Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
Palermo, By Elizabeth. “What Is Acupuncture?” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 05 Mar. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
St. Jude Medical. “Power Over Your Pain.” Spinal Cord Stimulation: A Proven Therapy for Pain. St. Jude Medical, Inc., 2016. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
WebMD. “Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Chronic Pain.” WebMD. WebMD, 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2016 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.org, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.