Lower Back Pain

by Dr. Wendy Schauer, D.C., R.K.C. on April 24, 2012

It has been estimated that 100 million days of work are lost each year to lower back pain.  It is also estimated that 4 out of 5 people will at some point in their life suffer from back pain.  For some the pain will come on slowlyover months or even years and for others the pain comes quickly from an injury.   Some may have only stiffness but then get sharp pains after picking up a pencil off the floor.  As I go on in practice, I seem to be getting more  “I don’t know what I did” responses to my “What happened?” question.

There are many reasons given for lower back pain.  Your doctor may say you have degeneration, disc herniation, strain, arthritis, slipped disc, stenosis, pinched nerve….   From what I have seen in my 21+ years of practice one of the main underlying causes of lower back pain is weakness in the back and core (stomach) muscles.

In this technological society, people are sitting more than ever.  I have had patients sit for 5+ hours without getting up and they do this day after day after day.  Over time the muscles in the lower back and core start to weaken, the vertebra start to lose their motion and the disc and joints wear and tear.   Now you have degeneration, arthritis, disc herniation… 

Giving a person a diagnosis of arthritis or degneration takes away their control.  They think there is nothing that they can do because they have a “condition”.  They are told they will have to learn how to manage their pain.  They will come to me and say “I have been told I have arthritis and there is nothing I can do.  I am not sure why I am even here.”  This saddens me as there is a lot they can do.

I always ask for a patient’s MRI if they have had one and I look for atrophy (muscle wasting) of the Multifidus.  Based on many research articles I have read, multifidus atrophy is responsible for lower back pain more than disc herniations, more than arthritis and more than degeneration. Over 90% of my patients with chronic lower back pain have atrophy of the multifidus. 

The multifidus is an extremely important muscle, actually a group of muscles. There are two layers, deep and superficial, that attach from bone to bone in the spine and are responsible for stability and suspension.  Although this muscle is in your back it is part of the “core”.  With initiation of movement the multifidus needs to activate/contract to protect your spine.  It activates before your large prime movers activate.  If this muscle is weak then there is no stability to the spine and you are at risk for wearing and tearing of the disc and joints.   That explains how someone can bend over to pick up a pencil and go into spasm.  The pencil wasn’t heavy enough to do anything, there just wasn’t any stability to the spine to protect it. 

Weakness of the multifidus leads to lower back pain, muscle spasms, degeneration, disc herniations, arthritis and nerve irritation.

What does multifidus atrophy look like?


Stayed tuned to learn how to activate your multifidus and core.

Yours in Health!

Dr. Wendy

Sonya Lenzo April 25, 2012 at 3:39 AM

From someone who has a LOT of back pain over the years, I find this blog post fascinating and am waiting for the next one eagerly.
Sonya Lenzo

Dan April 25, 2012 at 6:02 PM

there is ALWAYS something one can do about a”condition” / aka excuse to not do something!

Shane Aric April 25, 2012 at 6:03 PM

Awesome. This is a great breakdown, easily explained and easy to understand. In about 1 minute you have covered more ground than any proffessional I have ever been to.

I would ask what you think of MAT and if you have studied and PRRT or Dorn Sponal Therapy in addition to your Chiropractic background?

PS. My other took your advice and says that the flat foot walking (as opposed to those shoes with the arches) seems to be working. a Slight adjustment pain but she is already noticing improvement. It has only been a couple days.. And that is So awesome!

Margarita @ Body Language Decoding April 25, 2012 at 8:34 PM

I am tuned for the exercises to come. I am so extremely interested. My back pain comes and goes on a monthly basis. Need improvement.

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Enzymes For Life April 25, 2012 at 9:31 PM

Thank you for the video showing us exactly what back pain looks like.

Yours In Health!

G.E. Moon II
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Lyle R. Johnson: The Sales Wizard & Mentor April 25, 2012 at 9:35 PM

THe video on back pain is more informative, thanks.

Hypnosis Pain Reduction Huntington Beach April 25, 2012 at 10:53 PM

Hi Dr. Wendy,

Whenever a client wants to use hypnotism for pain management and relief, I first require a Physician’s Referral to identify if there is a physiological aspect to what is going on. Your lower back pain information is invaluable.


April Braswell, CHt, RH
Hypnotherapy 4 Pain Relief Huntington Beach

Body language explained April 26, 2012 at 12:24 AM

Dr Wendy, as someone with back issues I appreciate your series.
Scott Sylvan Bell
Body language of no confidence
Now go implement!

Jc MacKenzie April 26, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Looking forward to this, my wife’s back pain is increasing. She, too, has been told she has a “condition” to “manage”.

Be Well. Jc

Annie Born April 26, 2012 at 5:12 AM

If caregivers don’t take care of themselves, they can get a sore back.
Thank you for the solution!
Looking forward to tomorrow!
When does the caregiver get care?

Peter Tamosaitis April 26, 2012 at 9:01 AM

Loved the video. Now we know so much, looking forward to seeing what you recommend for strenghing the multifidus and core.


Sabrina April 26, 2012 at 10:17 AM

Absolutely excellent information. The mutifidus is my favorite muscle! I look forward to the next article. Now, time for me to get up and move…

Sabrina Peterson, NASM CPT, CES
Fat Loss and Fitness 101

Clare Delaney April 26, 2012 at 11:15 AM

This is such a great article! I really appreciate you looking beyond the obvious symptoms and focussing on the root cause of the problem.

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Lyle R. Johnson: The Sales Wizard & Mentor April 26, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Your information is great; wish I had had it prior to going to “pain management” for shots – they worked and were scary.

Bryan April 26, 2012 at 8:13 PM

I have never had back pain, but many of my friends have. I will point them to you since you are the expert.

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Octavio April 27, 2012 at 6:27 AM

After a surf accident it took me 4 months to cure from my back pain. Your tips are the real deal.
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Suzanne Laramoe April 27, 2012 at 8:16 AM

Dr. Wendy,
I am anxiously awaiting the next installment of this. I know I need to strengthen my core.
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Shane Aric April 27, 2012 at 1:35 PM

Reminds me the need to get back to the Bikrams Yoga center … argh it is so far! Maybe I will just follow your Kettle ball routine! ;)

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Lyle R. Johnson: The Sales Wizard & Mentor April 27, 2012 at 5:45 PM

Thank you for your continuing flow of excellent health information and instruction.

Cherie Miranda April 27, 2012 at 10:48 PM

Thanks for the information on lower back pain. I have had it chronically (though it comes and goes) for most of my life.

Cherie Miranda
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Octavio April 28, 2012 at 8:36 AM

What dosis od daily vitamin D do you recommend for each age?
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Michael D Walker April 28, 2012 at 2:07 PM

Great use of video and the explanation showing us what happens to the lower back muscles in people with chronic back pain.

Look forward to learning the exercises that help.

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Eva Palmer April 28, 2012 at 4:19 PM

I did not know about these group of muscles.
I used to suffer from back pain but thanks to quiropractic I am much, much better now.

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Lyle R. Johnson: The Sales Wizard & Mentor April 28, 2012 at 7:00 PM

I appreciate addressing the Cause … instead of discussing the Effect(s).

Jc MacKenzie April 29, 2012 at 3:48 AM

I’ve been fairly lucky with my own back so far…although I’m looking forward to the coming installments to ease the stiffness.
Be Well.

Shane Aric April 29, 2012 at 2:30 PM

Great Article! Thanks!

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Lyle R. Johnson: The Sales Wizard & Mentor April 29, 2012 at 5:41 PM

Appreciate the useful and valid information you provide in your Posts.

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Beth April 30, 2012 at 7:31 PM

Hey! That better not be my MRI!

Lyle R. Johnson: The Sales Wizard & Mentor April 30, 2012 at 7:59 PM

Thanks, just checking in again today.

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