Are you one of the four out of five people who have experienced low back pain at some point in your life? You might not guess it, but back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor. How do you take care of this broad and powerful area between the low ribs and the pelvis? Read on to learn more about the lumbar spine that has five of the largest vertebrae referred to as L1- L5. Along with the hip, it joins the upper body with the lower body allowing for proper function and coordinated movements like forward bending (flexion) and arching backwards (extension), rotation and side bending.
The low back has a natural lordotic curve, a slight inward sway, which may become pronounced or even somewhat reversed and flattened due to imbalances between muscular strength and length from our habits, old injuries and/or trauma. There is a sophisticated support system of muscles that synchronize for a healthy low back: hip flexors/quads, hamstrings, psoas major, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae, interspinales, multifidi, intertransversarii mediales, are a just a few tongue twisting names of the key players. Let’s not forget about the layers of core muscles on the front (anterior) side of the body to help balance out the posterior (back) side of the body to further support and stabilize the spine.
Low back pain symptoms may range from dull ache, to sharp and shooting, or to just downright annoying. There are a lot of factors to consider when evaluating the complicated and strong yet fragile low back. As a thoughtful investigator, I have discovered some of the potential patterns that contribute to these symptoms. Some of my patients call me a health manager as I educate and guide them on creating the recipe for a treatment program to help resolve their issues, as well as organize a maintenance and prevention plan for their wellness goals. Here are some basic tips I offer my patients and students:
Healthy low back suggestions:
-Posture: Review September blog and practice!
-Take frequent breaks when you are sitting for long periods of time: e.g. on a flight, after a movie, or during car trips. I also recommend drinking a lot of water while you are working at your desk so you HAVE to get up to take a break to use the restroom. We are mammals and are meant to move!
-Research shows that regular exercise helps ease inflammation and muscle tension. Schedule time for exercise, even if it’s a 10-minute walk, some form of movement is better than nothing!
-Sleeping position: Review February Blog.
-Do you smoke? Consider quitting… smokers are more vulnerable to low back pain since smoking restricts nutrient rich blood flow to the spinal discs.
-Stay within 10 pounds of your ideal weight. Extra pounds especially around the mid-section shifts your center of gravity adding more strain at the low back.
-Proper lifting technique: bend your knees and squat, do not bend forward from the waist and do not twist your body while lifting. Use your legs and be robot-like!
-Push heavy objects instead of pulling them.
-Balance the muscle players including the core, by properly strengthening them and lengthening them. See cobra tutorial video below for spinal extension exercises.
-Rest in a childs pose, with knees together, and breathe.Women: choose a purse wisely! Messenger bag style is great because the strap is on the opposite shoulder than the bag so weight is distributed across your body. If that’s not your style, lighten the load of your purse, or change sides of the body frequently. My favorite cool/stylish/hip messenger bags: www.raiscase.com // @raiscase
-Men: Do not sit on your wallet while it is in your back pocket!
-Be mindful and listen to your body. If you’ve been experiencing low back pain for a while and it is constant, please be one of those people to see your Doctor. Take care of it now!
Stay tuned for part two coming next month with a yoga sequence for the low back. If you have any questions or comments, schedule a personal appointment or a Skype session with me, and I’ll help guide you. Check out my previous blogs and my video collection: www.inertia.com // @amanda.kriebel // www.awarenesspt.com.