Virtually every day someone emails me, texts me, face book messages me or tells me in person that they have lower back pain. Studies tell us that 80% of Americans have back pain, has had back pain or will have some type of low back pain in the future. Thats a huge percentage of people in pain! The question is Why?!
The easy answer is that we sit too much! Some of us sit for most of the day at work. After work many of us go home and plop on the couch and sit some more, and don't forget bed time where we lay around for another 6+ hours. Back pain is caused by many things, sitting too much is just the beginning. Lets take a look at some other reasons:
Sitting too long: puts excessive crushing forces on our spines that stops nutrients from getting in and out of the discs. Also long bouts of sitting will trigger the MSF (muscle spindle fibers) to "reel in" and take out the laxity in the muscles, in particular, the hamstrings, hip flexors and Internal rotators of the shoulders. SImply put, the muscle over time will start to get stiff and tight. This tightness will start to negatively change the way you move.
Picking things up improperly: is another reason many people have back pain. Next time you get a chance watch a baby pick something up off of the floor. Babies are perfect dead lifters, we are designed to get close to something heavy, drop our hips, puff up our chests and pick it up. We are born with the ability to move perfectly over time we lose this ability because we don't use it. Learning to "hinge" will keep your back safer.
Weak Core: Weak erectors (low back musculature), weak abs (rectus abdominus), weak obliques (internal & external), weak transverse abdominus, weak glutes (minimus, medius, maximus) among many other muscles make up "The Core". Most people with back pain have weak cores and by weak what I mean is they usually lack good endurance in their core muscles. Recent studies have shown us that Endurance in the erectors NOT strength is better to have to fend off low back pain.
Too much lumbar flexion: is another reason for low back pain. People love crunches and sit-ups because they believe this will lead them to a six pack stomach. Totally False! Crunches and sit-ups are a bad idea if you want a healthy spine. Too many flexion/extensions on discs in the spine, particularly in the L-1,2,3,4 region can and will be deadly to a healthy back. After thousands of repetitions the discs will eventually have herniations and pain will follow.
Now that we've gone over a few of the reasons for lower back pain lets go over some ways to stop it or prevent it:
Walk outside everyday and walk fast! Walking fast with a big arm/shoulder swing is a great way to unleash all that stored up energy in the core and low back. This will start to lengthen your hamstrings, loosen up your hip flexors and slowly fix your posture.
Lift weights! And I mean all the big movements that will force your body to get strong and move the way its intended to move. Deadlifts, Chin ups, Push Ups, Squats are all a great place to start. This will give the body the strength and endurance it needs to fend off LBP.
Lose Fat! Moving around everyday with even an extra 10 pounds of fat can be detrimental to all your systems. Extra fat/weight on your joints and muscular system will make it a lot tougher for you to move properly and to have the motivation to move more often. Extra body fat not only stops us from attaining physical goals but it can be detrimental to our mental health and confidence as well.
Stretch! Now I am a fan of stretching but too much can be bad. Tight people don't move well and this will cause issues but over the years my experience has shown me that hyper-mobile people have the same amount if not more back pain than tight people. Hyper mobility causes joint laxity or looseness in the joints and makes for an unstable joint which will lead to back pain as well. Find a happy medium for your stretching but stretch daily.
Decrease Stress Levels! Yes, Stress plays a huge role in LBP. When we are stressed our bodies become acidic vs alkaline. This will stop the brain from releasing feel good hormones, tighten up muscles, cause headaches and quickly kill our motivation to go outside and walk or hit the gym.
Below is a link to a couple great variations to train your Core: