Eight out of 10 people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Low back pain is actually the second most common reason to visit a physician in the United States. However, a few “fun” facts about low back pain are that less than 20 per cent of low back pain has a recognisable cause, 70 per cent will get better without treatment and 90 per cent gets better in about two months. This tells us most back disorders (save significant trauma or genetic conditions) are a direct result of lifestyle.
Here are a few ways you can be good to your back:
Be aware of your posture
— As humans living in a technologically advanced world, we spend the majority of our day in flexion. A flexion dominant posture is assumed when sitting in any chair or driving. This posture promotes a forward head, rounding of the shoulders, and outward curving of the upper and lower back. This increases pressure on vertebral discs and increases wear and tear on the joints of the spine as well. Assume a better posture immediately by gently “tucking” your chin and slightly pushing the chest out while pulling the shoulder blades in.
Improve your flexibility
— Our long days of flexion sitting at desks and in cars promotes tightness in the muscles at the front of the hip (hip flexors) and behind the knees (hamstrings/calves). Tightness in these muscles can indirectly contribute to low back pain by pulling on the pelvis and causing an anterior or posterior tilt. Stretching these main muscle groups two times per day and holding for 20 seconds can assist with improving posture.
— The muscles in our legs are large for a reason. The next time you go to lift something below waist level use your legs instead of making your back the primary mover. Also, if you have to carry anything after lifting, keep your back as straight as possible and gently pull your navel towards your spine to activate the muscles of your core.
Increase your general physical fitness
— The fitter you are, the better your body is able to handle stress. Most people know that they should stand, sit and lift better, but when your body is tired, most good intentions go out the window. Try to get in at least 20 minutes of low-intensity physical activity per day (walking, cycling, swimming, etc.) and you will indirectly be rehabilitating your low back.
To find out more about how to achieve your rehabilitation goals, contact a healthcare professional at Align Wellness Studio.
Kristina Maxwell is a doctor of physiotherapy at Align, a wellness studio with an integrated approach to physical rehabilitative treatments and preventative care.