An Important Tip to Prevent Back Pain

Updated March 2016

how to protect your back

Back pain affects the majority of us.  Acute and chronic lower back pain are among the most common reasons for doctor’s visits and missed time from work.  The majority of back pain is mechanical.  This is from incorrectly using the muscles of the body during daily routine either to bend or to lift.  We strain our back muscles, lumbar vertebrae and lumbar discs as a result.

In order to protect yourself from injury, always be aware of maintaining the following. :

  1. Minimal bending, twisting and arching of the spine
  2. Keeping your pelvis neutral and stable
  3. Engaging your leg muscles, specifically your gluteal muscles
  4. Lowering your hips as you bend
The last point is not generally known.
Most people will bend with their back by lowering their upper body down to their lower. Although very practical and rarely a problem with people who do not suffer from back pain, this introduces risk of injury.  Back spasms are know to occur at this point.  Done repeatedly, without balance, control and with excess weight, you risk lower back pain.

Incorrect bending can risk disc injury

This is usually how we bend over. This is harmful and unnecessary. There is too much pressure on the lumbar discs.  Disc injury and back spasm are likely to occur.  There not only is pressure on the spine when leaning over, but also when raising back up.  A bend in the lower back is also more likely to occur (blue arrow). Observe in the image where the elbows and hips are relative to one another (red arrows).
Most of us do not experience pain with this method because there is adequate disc height and cushioning in between each vertebrae.  Lifting relatively light objects normally do not present a risk.  However, by routinely adopting this practice, unbalanced disc pressure, wear and degeneration progressively becomes a factor.  Hip muscles lose their activity and poor pelvic tilt worsen disc bulge.  The addition of upper body weight and heavier objects compound the risk of injury.

The Wrong Way

the wrong way to pick up
Over time, this becomes progressively more risky for your spine.

The Right Way

This method helps to ensure the four points mentioned. It retrains you on how to move correctly and it also reconditions the muscles responsible for protecting your back. With time, this will be a natural movement.
When you need to lean over, whether to reach something or to pick it up,
Follow this One Simple Rule :  

Keep Your Elbows Above Your Hips. That’s it.

In the below images, you can see that the hip AND leg muscles are engaged.  There is no bend encouraged in the lower back.  The lower back muscles are recruited and activated along with the glute muscles.  At NO time is it necessary for the level of the elbows to be below that of the hips.
The arrow at the top is pointing at the elbow, while the arrow at the bottom is pointing and the hip bone.
The weigh of the upper body still remains above the pelvis which reduces the risk of disc bulge which can lead to herniation or spasm.  Notice how the upper body has only leaned over at a fraction of the angle of the first image.
The leg muscles are more engaged in this movement which also function to prevent injury.
Safe Posture and BendingCorrect Posture and Bending
This is a much safer and preferred alternative to leaning over.  If you keep yourself aware of this rule, then you force yourself to consciously bend at the hips, the knees and not the back. You can still reach and will be able to do it with your leg and hip muscles engaged and moving.
There is much less effort and strain on your back and you will reduce you chances of spasm and injury dramatically.  We are generally taught to lift with the knees, but are rarely taught how to align our joints prior to the lift.

This movement is very easy to perform.  However some of us may experience, tightness, weakness, stiffness and difficulty using sufficient leg strength to do this.  It may be one of the reasons we may avoid this type of movement.  This is an indication of a problem that you must address.  Avoiding these concerns will make you more prone to both acute and chronic lower back pain.  It is important to pursue further help for this problem.  This website provides a wealth of information and help to treat your concern.

If your are suffering significant pain, download and start the eBook.  It will help you with many other areas that contribute to your pain.

“ I really liked this eBook as I have a lot of issues with my back after a wreck and this had a lot of helpful information that I needed to know.”