It amazes me how many people suffer from low back pain when they simply do not have to. By using a combination of gentle therapeutic exercise, core strengthening, postural awareness and movement exploration you can transition from low back pain to no back pain. It’s actually easier than you may think.
First, let’s address sitting. Most of us sit for long periods at a time, and I have never met a chair that is comfortable and provides proper support for anyone, let alone everyone. And don’t even get me started on airplane seats. You can’t change the chair, but you can make a few easy adjustments to support yourself and reduce unnecessary strain on your back by following these easy steps:
1). Make sure your spine is properly supported by using a small towel roll behind your lumbar spine.
2). Make sure your feet are always flat on the floor. I know, sometimes we like to tuck our feet under our chair, but it’s not good for your back.
3). Most of all, get up and move as often as possible.
Next, it’s important to pay attention to how you stand, especially if you have to stand for prolonged periods of time. Notice if your knees are locked and stiff, and how your back feels. Now relax and slightly bend your knees, and notice how your back feels. Key points:
1). Keep your knees relaxed and slightly bent when standing. This reduces excess stress on your lumbar spine.
2). Whenever possible, place one foot on a small step to decrease the pressure on your back. You can use a small step stool, a phone book or a small trash can on it’s side. Switch your feet often.
3). With your knees relaxed, slowly sway and shift your weight side to side. This helps decrease stress and strain on your low back, distributes your weight more evenly, and it feels good. As an added bonus it makes people wonder what you’re up to.
Now, find your core muscles. No, I don’t mean by doing sit ups. Sit ups and crunches are often done incorrectly, resulting in stress and strain on your neck and spine with ab-solutely no benefit to your abdominals. Try this easy exercise to activate your abdominals, specifically your transverse abdominus, the muscle responsible for stabilizing your low back.
1). Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Bring your attention to your lower abs. Breathe in, and as you breathe out gently but firmly pull your lower abdominals in toward your spine. Yes, it really is that easy, but I highly recommend that you get some professional help with that one.
Finally, really pay attention to how you move. Slow yourself down and notice how you move in and out of the car; up and down stairs; picking up objects; unloading groceries, etc. You may find that you are actually aggravating you back with certain movement patterns. Changing these movement patterns can cause a huge relief for your back.
The most important point is that you are not at the mercy of low back pain. Rather, you have the power to help yourself and heal your own back. Even if you have been given a strange and scary name for the cause of your low back pain (a diagnosis), you can still go from low back pain to no back pain. And now you know that it’s actually much easier than you previously thought.
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP