Back hurt?

Written by integrativetherapeutics on . Posted in The Body Mechanic, by Todd A. Forman, PT

You’re not alone. You’ve probably read the stats by now about how over 80% of the adult population in this country has lower back pain and how we spend billions every year on it without getting closer to a solution. So, why does it happen?

When my daughter was about 2 years old, I noticed she had perfect posture. When she bent down to pick something up, she bent at her knees instead of bending over at her waist. Though no one who knows me will believe this, I did NOT train her this way- she just did what came naturally. I asked a colleague about it, and she also noticed her children moved with near perfect body mechanics (without being trained).

So how do we lose this? I spend a lot of time every week trying to get people to move normally to help their backs feel and work better. Why do I have to “train” normal? . My take? Simple. We are simply not built to sit.

What happens when we sit? A lot, and most of it bad for our backs. When we sit, the pressure on the lumbar discs goes up by about 50%. Our abdominal muscles shut down. Our hip flexors and hamstrings shorten. Usually, we slump , putting a prolonged stretch on the part of the disc most prone to failure.

What do I almost always see when someone comes to my office for help with a back problem? Tight hip flexor muscles, tight hamstrings, weak abdominals, lumbar disc degeneration…I don’t believe this correlation is a coincidence. The amount of time most of us spend sitting is surprising. Take a minute and add up how much time you spend driving, sitting while you work, eat, relax at the end of the day. How many of your waking hours are actually spent on your feet, as you were “designed” to do? Now think about all of those negative effects of sitting multiplied by the 40-50 hours each week most of us sit.

One of the most effective changes I can get clients to make to fix their back pain is to get out of their chairs as much as possible. I am a huge advocate of standing desk for office workers as an alternative work station. One company has a low speed treadmill with a desk mounted on it for slow walking while you work. Fantastic idea (pricy, though). If that is not possible, get up and pace during phone calls whenever possible. Read documents walking in the office. If you can do it on your feet, do it. All of the corrective exercise or corrective hands on work in the world will not solve your back problem if you put it right back into the same environment that caused the problem in the first place.

And I’ll bet back pain isn’t the only expensive health problem we can start to solve by starting to get up off our backsides.

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