*This back pain series started out as a single post, but soon became so long I had to break it into two.*
Back pain is horrific and if you’re reading this article I’m sure you already know that. You can’t walk, you can’t work, you can’t play with your kids or walk your dog or do any of the things that make life worth living. Unless you’ve suffered with back pain, you can’t really grasp how bad it can be – you need your back for everything you do. Lying down? Moving your arm? Moving your head? You’ll need your back for all of that. In short….it sucks.
Sometimes when patients come to me, they have no idea that the simple, everyday thing they’re doing is the root cause of their debilitating back pain. To try and combat that, here are 10 common reasons your back hurts and, more importantly, what you can do to help yourself.
1. Poor Sitting Posture
Sitting with ‘perfect’ posture puts a lot of stress on your lower back. Like, a lot. It takes a lot of effort from your muscles to keep everything in line. When you’re stood up, everything is pretty much in neutral, like a pillar holding up a ceiling. When you sit down, that pillar is folded in half, reducing its effectiveness.
Although the diagram gives weights, it’s actually dependant on how much you weigh, but what we can see is that the more you slump in your chair, the more pressure it puts on your back. Ok, hands up now, who sits perfectly in their chair like this?
*looks around* *cricket noises* Nobody. Alright then. Who sits like this:
Yeah, me too. But if you’re suffering from back pain and you sit at a desk a lot, it’s time to think about how you’re using your body. Try to sit on your pelvis, not your lower back – sit more upright, and keep your upper back straight. Stand regularly and go for walks. Maybe try implementing the 33 minute rule from this article if you have an understanding boss.
A part of the problem with sitting up properly is remembering to do it, so getting something like this would help with both remembering to sit up, as well as keeping a decent posture.
We all sit far too much, and it is wrecking our lower backs, our upper backs and our necks. Headaches, anyone? Walk more, sit up.
2. Misaligned Pelvis
Ahh, the pelvis. The base of your body. Everything is attached to this – your spine rests on it, your legs, the biggest, most powerful muscles on your whole body are attached here too. The pelvis is the foundation of your body, and if you have a wonky foundation, well…
And as cool as R2 is, nobody wants to be doing this impression.
There’s lots of different ways your pelvis can become misaligned, first of all it’s supposed to move, which helps with walking/bending/stretching/life, but maybe it doesn’t go back where it’s supposed to, maybe you always turn the same way, so it sticks like that, maybe you play rugby and you get hit hard. Whatever, the outcome is the same – misaligned pelvis, different gait, muscles tightening in different ways…..back pain.
So, what can you do about it? Stretch. There are lots of big, strong muscles wrapped all around your pelvis, but the main ones you need to stretch are your hip flexors, glutes, low back and abs.
Yes! Housework can be bad for you! Very bad, in fact. Best put the hoover down and rest your feet, eh? I’m sure you deserve it.
Our backs are incredibly strong, they can pick up half a tonne of weight – literally – but they are only strong in certain ways. The problem with things like hoovering, mopping, wiping things is the twisting part of it. Pushing the hoover back and forth with one hand means a lot of twisting and rotating around the spine, which our backs are not so good at handling. Pick up a huge amount of weight perfectly up and down, no problem. Put a slight twist in? That’s going to be a bad day.
The solution is to either never hoover ever again (tempting) or to move your feet as you push the hoover round, trying to keep your arm still.
4. Weak Glutes
Glutes, bum muscles, are some of the strongest in the human body. They help you jump, run, accelerate and just generally be athletic. They are relatively huge and take up a lot of human real estate, helping to balance out things like your quads and hip flexors, stabilising your pelvis and low back and preventing, yep, you guessed it, back pain.
The human body works in balance, every muscle having an opposite to help it move and be stable. Modern people spend a lot less time jumping and running to earn their dinner than they do sitting down to earn it, so what we find is that your peachy, pert bum muscles aren’t as firm as they could be. In fact, a lot of people have trouble activating their glutes as they’re so underused. This leads to imbalances and other muscles becoming too strong, pulling your body in ways it doesn’t appreciate. How does your body show a lack of appreciation? With pain. Cheers body.
There are hundreds of ways to strengthen your glutes; squats, glute-ham raises, lunges, hip thrusts…..yawn. How about something basic that doesn’t require a gym? I’ve got two. Whenever you drop something on the floor, don’t just bend over at the waist to pick it up, bend at the knees and lower your butt to get it.
The second glute strengthening exercise is to just squeeze your bum muscles three times as hard as you can for 5-10 seconds, three times a day. That’s squeeze for 5 seconds, rest for 5, squeeze for 5, rest for 5, squeeze for 5. Do that three times a day.
And that’s the end of part one. Any questions on these, or any other sources of back pain, drop me an email at email@example.com, visit me on Facebook, or leave a comment below. Oh, and don’t forget to check out part two.