Common causes of lower back pain and how to deal with it
Updated March 2016
Lower Back Pain has many different causes. We are all affected by at least one or more severe cases of pain in our lifetime. Our daily routines contribute to our discomfort more often than one may expect.
If your back is healthy, you normally will not notice the increased risks that most of these activities will have on your back. When you have back pain, the risk from virtually everyone of these activities becomes clear as they each become very difficult to perform while in pain.
By spending more time proactively trying to predict and understand the cumulative risks of each activity, we can find better means by which to perform them so as to prevent them from harming us.
Activities Which Involve Looking Down Immediately In Front Of You
- Desk Work
- Kitchen Chores
- Operating Handheld Devices (texting)
- Working in front of Counters
- Most Seated Activities
These activities encourage you to devote an extended period of time maintaining one position. This is not a natural position to keep. Also, it is usually done under some degree of tension.
These activities require that the head, neck and upper back hold a fixed position. Initially, there is no difficulty doing this but it is not held for very long due to fatigue. Instead of maintaining an upright posture, we tend to lean our heads forward, bringing tension to the back of the neck.
These activities usually involve the use of our arms and hands. Bending at the neck and using our arms unconsciously causes you to relax your upper body. This is because you are expending your energy on maintaining a poor neck posture while actively using the muscles in your arms. With a relaxed upper body, your shoulders drop and your upper back relaxes.
This may seem ok, but it is your upper back posture which suffers. This exhausted pose causes us to slouch when seated or standing. This relaxed position affects the natural and correct posture of the spine. Its causes it to bend in an imbalanced way. This strains the cervical and thoracic vertebrae and the supporting muscles leading to pain.
We are all guilty of this posture and most of us do not realize that we are have it. This poor way of maintaining your upright posture over time becomes automatic. Being able to maintain the correct way of holding your upper back and neck actually becomes tiring and difficult to hold for the amount of time that you need it to.
Lower Back Pain
When your upper body has these issues, it affects the natural curve of the lower back. It also becomes imbalanced, affecting the lumbar discs and muscles leading to pain. This worsens your pelvic tilt causing injury to the lumbar spine. Even if your upper body is able to endure the discomfort without your awareness, the lower back may not be so forgiving. Your first reaction may be to treat only your lower back. However, by addressing your overall posture including your entire spine, you will help your lower back pain.
Since we cannot instantly correct this posture, you can help to correct this common problem in a progressive manner.
Here are some steps to help correct your posture.
Perform the following:
- Stand or sit straight up
- Arch you back slightly so as to push your chest slightly up and forward
- Gently flex your shoulders to your sides and in behind you
- Keep looking forward
- Tuck in your chin slightly
- Hold your neck as straight as possible
- Lean your head and neck slightly back to above your centre of gravity
- Hold this position for 10-30 seconds
- Now relax for a few seconds
- Slowly raise both arms and hands above you
- Straighten your arms and extend them directly above
- Keep your hands open and hold them closely together
- Tilt your head backward and look up at your hands
- Your hand should be directly above and in line vertically with your feet
- Hold this position for 10-30 seconds
- Bring your arms down, relax your head and neck
When performing this movement, use these visualizing techniques to help you.
- It should feel as though your are trying to raise an object with both hands up to the top shelf of a cabinet slowly and carefully.
- It should feel as though you are trying to push up on an object above you that you are keeping above you.
- It should feel as though you are holding a “superman” like pose while flying, only vertically.
The longer that you maintain this position, the more you will feel gradual adjustments in your spine and neck. This will feel unusual at first. As your muscles strengthen and stretch, you should be able to feel some relief from poor posture. Your tension will reduce and your flexibility will improve.
If you find this exercise difficult or tiring, it may be due to the stiffness, weakness and inflexibility you have developed over time. Use this as a measure of how much your posture has changed. This exercise helps to correct the unnatural C-curve that has developed in your body compared to the natural S-curve that your spine should have.
Perform this exercise often
- Every 20-30 minutes in between the activities as mentioned above
- Before and after each activity
- At least once every morning upon waking, lunchtime, and at bedtime before lying down
- Anytime where you feel stiffness in your upper body
- Every time you have to perform any activity where you have been leaning over
- Just prior to performing any activity which will require leaning over
The more that you perform this exercise, the less uncomfortable you will feel. This exercise will feel easier to perform with time and practice.
To help to strengthen your upper back and add endurance, use a light object such as a book to raise up in the air as you perform this exercise. Gradually increase the weight and duration as much as you are comfortable with.
If you associate this exercise with the activity, you will be able to easily and consciously associated the activity with the posture required. This helps to prevent you from forgetting to maintain the pose and will reduce or prevent you from injury.
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