If you’re like most people, you’ve probably suffered from back pain at one point or another. According to the National Centers for Health Statistics, back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old. More than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 experience frequent back pain and it is listed as the most frequent cause of chronic pain.
To keep yourself off the list of frequent sufferers, it’s important to first understand where this problem comes from so you can apply some simple strategies to keep pain at bay.
As a human being, you get to walk around upright. For this to happen, you have a spine up the center of your back that provides an anchor and center point for just about every major articulating joint in your body. It isn’t just a rigid pole holding you upright—it curves in a slight “S” shape, allowing for the different bends, twists and other movements you need to do on a daily basis.
The spine isn’t designed, however, to take on all of your twisting, bending and rotating alone. The joints that articulate with the spine, such as the hips and shoulders, are supposed to work with the spine to make this happen.
When we succumb to the desks, chairs and couches of an inactive lifestyle, these joints that are supposed to work with the spine lose their range of motion. The muscles that help these joints move become immobile and weak. When these joints can no longer work with the spine effectively, the spine has to pick up the slack.
When the muscles that make it possible for joints like the shoulders and hips to move become weak and immobile, the spine has to excessively flex, extend and rotate to allow movement. This places quite a bit of stress on the tissues between the spinal vertebrae. After a while, these tissues become agitated, inflamed and injured. The result is chronic back pain and injury.
A potent two-punch approach to help alleviate some of these issues involves:
- Improving the ranges of motion of the joints that articulate with frequent and efficient flexibility exercises
- Avoiding prolonged periods of sitting
As simple as the two-punch approach sounds, modern daily life no longer naturally facilitates frequent movement. We sit in cars to go to a job where we sit at a desk. After a long day, we relish in the idea of sitting in our favorite chair while watching television. Our ancestors would be alarmed at what has now become a “back-breaking” lifestyle.
If this sounds familiar, it’s time to start running some interference throughout the day to break up your bouts of sitting so you can get your back health back. Try setting a timer to chime every 60 minutes and stand up and perform one of the three stretches described below.
Note: If you experience chronic back pain, you should talk to your physician.