How to Prevent Low-Back Pain
Welcome back to the Strong Healthy Happy blog for part 3 of our 4 part article series on low-back pain (LBP). Home stretch. We sifted through the weeds of why LBP is such a big problem in part 1 and the various causes of LBP in part 2. Now it’s time to take action.
Degenerative changes of the spine are a normal part of aging that can start to compile and result in a number of painful conditions. Fortunately, as your discs, ligaments, and facet joints start to show signs of wear and tear, there are plenty of preventive steps you can take to intercept the cascade of degenerative changes and support the healthy alignment and function of your spine.
RESTORE NORMAL SPINE MOBILITY & STABILITY
The many years of slouching over a desk can result in poor posture and muscle imbalances that lock you into this troublesome position. The curvature of your spine now more closely resembles that of Quasimoto. This can accelerate the degeneration of your spine and lead to chronic LBP (1,6,7-9). The normal curvature of the lumbar spine is described as lordosis, an inward curvature towards your belly button.Too much lordosis can increase stress on the facet joints, while too little lordosis can increase stress on the discs (6,7). A neutral spine shares the load. The information below describes how to restore normal alignment and function of the spine by improving range of motion (ROM) and correcting muscle deficiencies and imbalances.
If you’re sitting at a desk all day, there is a good chance your hamstrings and hip flexors are tight. When you’re sitting, your hips and knees are typically flexed at or close to 90 degrees and your hamstrings and hip flexors are stuck in their shortened position all day. Your hamstrings and hip flexors influence pelvic tilt, which then influences curvature of the lumbar spine (10,12). Tight hip flexors can cause anterior pelvic tilt and increased lordosis (hyperlordosis) (12). Tight hamstrings, can cause posterior pelvic tilt and decreased lordosis (hypolordosis) (10). Lengthening these muscles through static stretching can help you restore neutral pelvic alignment. Try a stretching strap to get an assisted stretch.
Release Myofascial Adhesions
Increasing muscle length and achieving normal ROM can also be inhibited by adhesions that form in the myofascial tissue surrounding your muscles. This can cause localized stiffness and decreased function of the muscle. Myofascial release techniques, such as foam rolling, can break up these adhesions, improve function, and increase tissue length (2). Use a foam roller and massage ball to break up myofascial adhesions in your hip flexors and extensors.
Strengthen Core Musculature
Mobility is useless without the strength to control it, and just as muscle length deficiencies and imbalances can cause alignment issues, so too is the case with muscle strength (1,7,9). Strong abdominal muscles help decrease anterior pelvic tilt, and similarly, strong back extensors help decrease posterior pelvic tilt. Strengthening these core muscle groups, in combination with restoring normal mobility, can help you achieve and maintain neutral spinal alignment and normal function. Use an exercise ball to strengthen your core musculature and stabilize your spine.
General Physical Activity
Get out there and be active. Physical activity has been shown to decrease the incidence of LBP and musculoskeletal disorders (3,11,13,14). The strength and mobility benefits have been described above (1,4,5,9). Another major aspect to consider is weight loss, with obesity having been shown to be a factor in LBP (1). One of the functions of the spine is to support the weight of the body. When your spine signed up for that job, it did not realize it would also have to support the extra 30 pounds you’ve been carrying around. Give your spine a break and lose the weight.
Now get out there and live a Strong, Healthy, and Happy Life!
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