If you’re over the age 25 and have played sports for some part of your life or been in a particular profession for 5 years or so, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced low back pack. That isn’t to say you have a back PROBLEM, but that you have back pain at some point or that you have it from time to time.
Back pain is something that most people in America will go through at some point in their lives. Statistics suggest that up to 80% of American’s will have back point somewhere along the way. Currently one half of American’s admit to having back pain at least once a year.
Although we spend gargantuan amounts of money (to the sum of $50 billion a year…yup) to heal back pain, we continue to have issues. And much of the problem of healing back pain goes back to trying to heal the pain sight and not attacking the pain source.
The majority of back pain is mechanical in nature and not caused by a serious condition, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, cancer or fracture. Mechanical in nature means that we are doing something repetitively or incorrectly to cause pain to arise. For instance, sitting at a computer in a slouched position constantly will cause pain over time or bending over to pick up a box with bad posture may cause pain immediately.
So even though you may be developing back pain in a certain area over time or you “threw your back out” picking up a box, the spot where you currently feel the pain is the site of the pain, but this may not be the source or cause of the pain.
The answer to this question can be insanely complicated or extremely simple. My gut instinct is to say “I don’t know” when it comes to causes of low back pain. But that would be a cop-out. So I’ll go with a slightly less workaround answer by saying, everything causes back pain. Let me explain…
If you don’t have a diagnosed issue such as those mentioned above, low back pain can be caused by your job or your body mechanics or the weakness in your glutes or your stiff thoracic spine. There are so many variables when it comes to figuring out exactly where pain is coming from, it’s hard to just pinpoint one thing and some “This is what’s causing your low back pain”.
Being a fitness coach and not a trained medical professional, I particularly don’t have the ability to diagnose pain (that would illegal and unethical of me). However, if you have a basic understanding of proper body mechanics and know what muscles support what joints, then you may be able to develop a program that helps reduce the likelihood (and possibly reduce the pain itself) of having back occur.
So what are some of the factors and ideas we need to take into account when dealing with back pain or hoping to prevent it all together?
The word “technique” can often be overused when talking about resistance training. However, it’s overused because it is insanely important. Technique means everything when it comes to being able to protect yourself from low back issues. Pick up a weight the wrong way or squat with bad form and your back may be gone before you realize it.
This is why many people stay away from resistance training altogether. Machines are much easier to use because they offer a lower barrier of entry. However, machines also don’t require that you utilize proper body mechanics. So you may be able to perform the exercise on the machine, but it is probably not helping you build resilience for every day life.
Be sure to nail your technique in the gym so that your body can development proper mechanics for everything you’re doing in real-life.
Most people have a hard time understanding what a neutral spine is. Typically, if you tell someone to “sit-up”, they pull their shoulders back too far into thoracic extension. Too far forward and too far back can be equally as detrimental.
Here’s a trick, sit up in a seat as tall as you can. Take your shoulders and roll them forward. As far forward as you can. Good, now pull them as far back as you can…go ahead. Okay, shrug them up and try and pinch your years together with your shoulders. Perfect. Now drop them straight down. If you did this right and followed the step, there’s a good chance you’re pretty darn close to a neutral spine. This is where you need to live.
For those that know me, this last section won’t surprise them one bit. However, for those that don’t know me, this may be a bit of a shock. The typical medical professional’s answer to general low back pain is rest. Ask them what you should be doing and they’ll tell you “why don’t you just rest it for a bit”.
I believe this is possibly the worst advice you could give someone dealing with back pain. Rest equals no movement and no movement equals no life. And, especially if you’re in your later years, this is typically the beginning of the end.
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you’re coming off back surgery I wouldn’t advice going and doing back flips right away. However, if you’re able to function and move relatively well, movement is always an option.
Remember to take all of these factors into account. Continue to move and don’t forget to move well. Find neutral and this may help fix a lot of issues in itself.
Movement is life. And without movement we have no life.