Low back pain and stiffness is a huge problem. We’ve all experienced it at some point. It affects how we move. It affects our enjoyment of life, and it even can affect our relationships.
There are a many reasons why someone may experience low back pain or stiffness, but here are a few common ones:
I’m often asked, should I wear a back brace? For very specific cases, they may be indicated, but for the majority of us they’re likely detrimental. We have a built-in back brace – our core musculature – that’s designed to support our spines, limit motion, and allow us to move without pain. Wearing a back brace will turn off that built-in musculature and weaken those muscles over time. Something we definitely don’t want!
Could you take a gentle tap, a punch to the gut and be okay? If not, we’ve got a problem.
You want to contract your core muscles as you move, and you need to think when you’re moving or lifting, that these muscles turn on and work properly. If you are unable to turn your muscular brace on (take a light tap or hit to the belly) that is an indication that you need to work on your core musculature.
Using your muscular brace will take some practice. You will learn to tune the contraction to your task. So when you bend over, you’re going to push out, brace and pick something up. If it’s something light or you’re moving over, you’re going to brace about 20% of the contraction. The heavier the object, you’re going to brace harder and harder as you will learn to control that muscular brace and tune it to the task. So you really need to be conscious and think when you’re bending, lifting – remind yourself – connect your brain to your ‘brace’ and contract the muscles to the task at hand. That in itself will give you some stability and support to allow you to move through painless range of motion.
We do not want our spinal joints moving excessively. This is what can cause problems and pain in our lower back. What you want to do is you want to visualize your spine as something that’s solid, even though there will still be motion in the spine, you want to visualize the spine as a stick or a bar that connects your upper and lower body. Remember, neutral posture is a nice, smooth, natural lumbar curve.
We want to maintain that through all of our motion with very little spinal motion. When we flex/bend forward, we do not want to flex forward in our lumbar region. We want to flex and extend through our hips and pelvis. Our hips are ball and socket joints. They’re designed to move and to create flexion and extension (hip rotation) through our trunk. We need to visualize moving (rotating) through our hips, not our lower backs.
Simply stated, we want to rotate through our hip joints. We don’t want to bend forward and roll forward to pick an object up, or to brush our teeth, we don’t want to flex forward through our lower back. It puts our back in a precarious position, either irritating an already painful condition, or setting us up for future injury.
Healing low back injuries is long and slow. So if we can prevent them in the first place by applying these 2 tips, your quality life will be better for it.
Stay “core” strong,