By The One on One Team
Last Updated: 6/18/23
Have you or someone you know ever experienced back pain? Unfortunately, the answer is probably yes. Studies show that 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some point in their lives, many of which are caused by preventable, lifestyle-related issues. Here’s what you need to know.
The Problem: The immobile/hypermobile imbalance
The spine is made up of a series of facet joints that allow the torso to rotate, flex, and extend. When we are young, this series of joints moves perfectly in sync with one-another, much like the links of a well-oiled bicycle chain. They “share” the stresses created when flexing, rotating, or extending. As we age, become sedentary, and develop postural deficiencies, this system becomes imbalanced. Some joints lose mobility, which creates a corresponding increase of mobility in others. This imbalance can cause a host of issues and is the mechanical cause of many back problems.
Ultimately, lifestyle choices can be significant in determining back health. The following are three lifestyle choices we believe can make a difference:
1. Postural awareness
We can’t overemphasize the importance of proper posture!
Here’s the thing… it’s the dysfunction that accompanies poor posture that makes us susceptible to injury. Simple tasks like doing laundry, carrying groceries, or taking out the trash can create problems if you’re living with postural dysfunctions.
2. Maintain I
Proper posture means keeping a neutral spine with no excessive rounding or arching. We call it “Maintaining I.” “Maintaining I” means keeping your hips and shoulders together while you rotate, as well as maintaining the space between your ribs and pelvis. It is essentially a name for standing tall with good posture! Whether exercising or simply participating in activities of daily living. “Maintaining I” will help to prevent potentially damaging stress to our spine.
3. Prolonged sitting
As mentioned in our Focus Point of the Week, Workstation Ergonomics, our environment lends itself to prolonged sitting: driving your car, working at the computer, attending meetings…the list goes on. When seated for extended periods of time, we tend to slouch, relaxing our upper back muscles and allowing our head and shoulders to round forward. Over time, this position can become our “new” posture, creating a host of back related issues.
When seated, make a conscious effort to maintain good posture. Sit with your hips directly underneath you so there is a straight line from your hips, to your shoulders, to your ears. Your upper back muscles should be lightly engaged to keep your shoulders back. If you are at a computer screen, keep the monitor directly in front of you (not off to the side) and ensure that the top line of text on the screen is at eye level. Another useful tip is to keep your core lightly engaged while sitting, which reduces the likelihood of slouching
4. Lifting mechanics
Improper lifting is a common cause of back pain. When lifting anything, keep your core engaged, hinge at your hips, and lift from your lower body. A useful exercise to practice this movement is the deadlift. The deadlift is a weighted hip hinge that, when done correctly, mimics proper lifting technique and strengthens the requisite muscles of the lower back and hips.
Preventing back pain is like preventing other health problems. You must become educated, aware, and proactive. Postural awareness, whether seated, standing, or moving, can go a long way towards keeping your back healthy. Follow these tips and be one of the 20% not to experience back pain!