How’s your back?
Chances are you’ve experienced the symptoms of a sore back at least once in your life. After all, in Canada 4 out 5 adults have, and it is one of the most common chronic conditions in our country. More than 60% of people with low back pain experience it for a lifetime! That is one heck of a lot of distress.
Pain, muscle stiffness or tension, a burning or tingling sensation which sometimes moves down the legs and is characteristic of sciatic pain.
That’s back pain.
Back pain is usually caused by mechanical issues — that is, by faulty movement patterns — but such pain can be related to medical conditions or trauma. Causes such as degenerative disc diseases, herniated discs, and other diseases of the spine are readily identifiable.
Somewhere around 85% – 90% of low back pain occurs without an apparent cause. Of course, the operative word here is apparent, as back pain is the common end point of an accumulated history of poor movement patterns and compromised postural alignment.
Here is the good news: lifestyle issues are common contributory factors to back pain. I say this is good news because we have control over most lifestyle issues and so can make choices which will prevent, improve or eliminate back pain. Poor muscle tone, particularly in the abdominal muscles and back muscles, poor posture, obesity, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle and, most especially, improper or heavy lifting are the primary culprits. Both depression and chronic stress appear to play contributory roles as well.
Back pain will surely affect your quality of life. It disrupts sleep, affects expressions of intimacy, limits activities of daily living, curtails sports and fitness endeavours, leads to loss of work hours, and has an impact on healthcare dollars.
So, with lifestyle issues having such an influence on back pain, much can be done to prevent or alleviate this discomfort. Losing weight if obese, quitting smoking, and getting regular exercise are all great starting points. It is important to strengthen back and abdominal muscles, and to develop and/or maintain a healthy postural alignment. Proper lifting techniques, on the job, in day to day activites, and in the gym are all vital. Avoiding standing or working in any one position for too long can also be helpful.
When it comes to caring properly for an injured back or compromised posture, it is important to seek out qualified assistance. After seeing your integral or allopathic health practitioner, look for an exercise program which will help. A yoga instructor whose certification is recognized by the Yoga Alliance, a Stott certified pilates instructor, a personal trainer whose certifications qualify them to work with such challenges are all great starting places. Make sure you ask about the individual’s credentials for meeting your unique needs.
In the meantime, three simple poses can help you prevent or relieve lower back pain. Make this a 10 minute routine three times a week for lengthening and strengthening of muscles.
- knee-to-chest – lie on your back with both legs fully extended. Take one knee to your chest and hold it with both hands for 3 – 5 breaths. Switch legs and repeat. Repeat five times on each side
- half locust – lie on your stomach with your chin on the floor, arms alongside your body palms down. Point toes and lift your right leg a few inches, hold for several seconds and then slowly lower. Repeat this five times and then switch to left leg.
- supine tuck & curl – lie flat on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With slow movements, slightly tilt your hips up off the floor and then lower them. Repeat this five times.