• Erik Nassif PT, DPT

Are you going to allow back pain to affect your life?


Is this a question you have asked yourself? If the answer is yes, then read on to understand why you may be experiencing low back pain and how you may be able to alleviate it and improve your quality of life.

If you took a poll of your family, friends and colleagues regarding low back pain in their lives, you would find the majority of them are living with pain or have experienced at least one episode of pain in the past. This is because low back pain is actually a normal part of being human! It is estimated that nearly 90% of people living today have or will experience low back pain during their lifetime. This high incidence of pain is due to several factors, many of which are associated with most of our lifestyles in modern society. Two major factors include how much we sit during the day and the constant forward bending we perform each and every day. Now that you know you are not alone and what could be causing your pain, let's look at what you can due to treat and even prevent your pain.

The first and foremost factor to address is how much we sit during the day. Most people work sitting, relax sitting, eat sitting, text sitting, watch sporting events sitting and not to mention all of the sitting we do when we commute to work either in our cars, on a train or when traveling in the air! Now think about your posture when you sit...is it upright with your low back slightly curved, chest high and head upright? Or, is it slouched with your shoulders rounded and head protruded forward? If you are in the latter category, again, you are not alone. Most people sit slouched causing a lot of strain to be placed on your low back. This constant posture may not hurt immediately, but all of this poor sitting posture wears on your spine, usually resulting in pain. Now you know why everyone told you to sit up straight when you were young! The simple fact is sitting and especially sitting poorly is much more stressful on your spine than is standing or walking.

The second factor mentioned is all of the bending forward we do each day. When we arise in the morning we bend forward to put on our slippers. We then bend to pick up the paper. Then we bend to wash our legs or shave ours legs in the shower. When we finish showering we need to dry our legs, place our pants on and put our socks and shoes on, all by bending forward! You get the picture, everything is forward. All of this forward bending strains our spine and just like poor sitting, which by the way is also a form of forward bending, will result in pain.

So now you know what causes your pain, let us look at how to reduce your pain and prevent it from returning and affecting your life. First, correct your sitting posture by allowing your low back to curve in by rotating your hips forward. Feel as if your hips roll forward and your chest rises. This is a subtle move, but one that is critical when sitting. This proper posture reduces strain and although may feel awkward at first, will be important in reducing your pain.

Ok, now that you understand good sitting posture, we need to address how much we bend forward. We certainly need to bend forward as humans, but the actions we take to offset all of this bending is of utmost importance. The answer to going forward is to go backwards! Yes, it sounds simple, but is effective. Think about the last time you bent backwards, was it yesterday, last week or can you not remember? The answer is not important, but the concept of counteracting all of the forward bending is important. We must bend back to relieve all of the stresses that come with bending forward. Our spine is meant to also bend backwards and this movement is what you must be doing more of during the day! Simply by bending backward, either when standing or when lying, a.k.a. as a press-up, you reduce spinal loading and stress. Your tired and weakened spinal tissues get a rest when bending backward. This rest is key to avoid weakening of your tissues and relieving pain.

There you have it, sit with better posture and bend backward more often to reduce your pain. These two items of advice will help most people. If you or anyone else is experiencing low back pain, consult with your physical therapist at Fitness Forum to get an examination and individualized treatment plan. The highly skilled therapists at Fitness Forum have extensive training in treating your spine, including the McKenzie method, to get you back to the life you want to live!

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