Disclaimer: I am not your physical therapist or chiropractor. I’ll leave it at that. Now let’s have a look at a huge problem in America. This is back pain. An estimated 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 suffer from chronic low back pain. This number is ridiculous. I find it hard to believe that those 26 million Americans’ jobs are picking up small cars off of trapped children. But unless I’m wrong (by all means save the children), I find this inexcusable.
Imagine the burden all these chronic back pain suffers are putting on our health care system! And the most devastating part is that it’s preventable! Back pain is not some airborne pathogen that sneaks in through the vents while you’re diligently stretching your anterior hips! No, S&*T doesn’t just happen! While I can’t speak to any specifics here, back pain is the result of poor alignment and poor movement based on a lifestyle that promotes poor alignment and poor movement!
Now that I’m done ranting and raving, let’s talk about a few ways we can go about promoting better alignment and better movement. This comes from being able to get mobility where we need mobility and create stiffness where we need stiffness. Here go my Top 4 Back Pain Fixes:
1) Lose Weight. I’m serious. If you are carrying extra weight that is going to mess with your alignment. Maybe not immediately, but over time your body will adjust to extra weight and in the case of belly fat, will pull you into an anterior pelvic tilt. What’s that?
The more fat you carry in the front, the harder it is going to be to maintain that neutral pelvis position. For more information on how to lose fat read here.
2) Train your Core. No crunches here. I’m talking about real core training. Let’s look at that anterior pelvic tilt as an example. to get out of that, what needs to happen? We need to contract our abdominal muscles and glutes to get back to neutral. Well we need to train the core to maintain that position! For more information on how we train the core at Coastal Performance read here. If we fail to strengthen our core we will not be able to maintain a stiff lumbar spine during strenuous activity. When we lose proper stability at the lumbar spine is when injury is most likely to occur.
3) Loosen up your Hips. But know what you’re loosening up and why. We don’t want to just go crazy stretching out whatever we feel like. We need to address our problem areas. The only way to know for sure what our problem areas are is to get assessed by a professional. But in general I would guess most people that spend most of their days sitting would have stiff anterior hips.
But be careful, they ARE stiff, which means they aren’t going to stretch far, but we can go further into the movement (by cheating). That’s the beautiful part about our bodies, but it’s also a curse. Our bodies let us break the rules just in case our lives depend on it. The problem is while stretching we get a movement from somewhere other than our stiff hips…
Yes, you got it. Once again, instead of movement at the hips (hip extension in this case) we get lumbar extension as shown in the picture of the anterior tilt! So be very careful when dealing with stretching the hips and make sure you know exactly what you are stretching! For more on the hips see here. And here. And here.
4) Fix your posture. I can’t stress this enough. How many people have you seen today with great posture? I haven’t seen any either. It’s sad and it’s not just an eyesore (says the guy who needs to work on his posture the most!) It can lead to low back pain. Let’s have a look at a guy with bad posture.
But here’s a guy who actually has bad posture…Ok, what’s wrong with that? Pretty normal dude sitting at a computer right? Not normal! Get that out of your mind. We need to be up straight; like that other guy! Where do I start. Well first of all his entire head is in front of his body. His shoulders are rounded so far forward I could rest a protein shaker bottle on his shoulder blades. And his thumbs are pointed at each other. Everything about his upper body posture is pulling him forwards. This causes our thoracic (upper back) spine to stiffen up in that flexed position. If the upper back is stiff, where do you think we can cheat to move when we need to? Bingo! The lower back again! It’s the ultimate compensator! And it pays the ultimate price when abused.
So if you take your health seriously, start taking these fixes more seriously. There is no excuse for back pain.