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The biggest contributor to low back pain I see

All I did was pick up a pencil?!!

Low back pain can be a very frustrating thing for people. The fact is the majority of people with low back pain don’t experience a major traumatic event. People usually indicate a small event as the start of their pain such as tying ones shoes, getting out of bed, picking up a pencil, etc. Without a significant traumatic event it’s hard for people to understand why they are sufferers from low back pain.

Too Much Flexion

Lots of research shows that the pain people are experiencing is an accumulation of small – sometimes unnoticed activities of daily living. Everyday – all day long people are placing their spines in harmful positions. For example, sitting in the car, sitting at a desk, doing the dishes, picking children up, etc. All of which have one thing in common – lower spine flexion. Every time we bend over or sit down we are flexing at our lower spine. You may think, so what – aren’t our spines designed to move and flex? Yes, but not to the degree and quantity most people do on a daily basis.  In comparison to extending backwards we essentially spend most of our life in flexion.  Research by Dr. Stuart McGill (who is considered the world’s foremost researcher in spinal biomechanics) explains why this repeated spine flexion is so bad. “If you keep flexing your spine and bending the disk over and over again, that nucleus slowly breaches the layers and causes a disk bulge, or a disk herniation.” This also comes into play with exercise. Unfortunately, we are now finding that a great deal of the exercises we perform can be actually harmful for our spines. In a previous blog post I discussed how situps can actually hurt our spines.  Most people do sit-ups to strengthen the abs. However, we are constantly flexing and compressing our lower spine when doing so. According to Dr. McGill’s research we now know that when someone does just ONE sit-up they place over 750lbs of pressure in the lumbar discs! Now consider how many sit-ups someone does and all the other flexion-based exercises including all the ones performed while sitting.

How Do We Correct This?

So what’s the answer? Stop bending altogether? Stop sitting? Stop exercising? Of course not. But we need to figure out safer ways to do these activities. For example, when it comes to bending to pick something up we need to hinge from our hips instead of bending from our spine. If we do this we aren’t placing undo added stress on our lower spines. To practice place a broom handle on your back. Hold it so there are three points of contact; head, between your shoulders, and right at your belt line. Now bend forward, if you feel you lose any points of contact especially the lower one you are flexing at your spine. Keep trying till you can maintain all three points of contact. Then practice without the broom. Please remember it’s important that a health care professional who specializes in correction/therapeutic exercises demonstrate exercises to you before changing your routine.
Dr. David Oliver DC, SFMA

Chiropractor specializing in therapeutic exercise

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