Your back isn’t just the core of your body; it’s quite literally at the core of everything you do. Having acute or regular ongoing backpain can affect how you perform athletically or how well you can concentrate at work. It can limit the kinds of activities you do, the kinds of vacations you take, or even how you talk to and relate to people. Despite that though, it’s incredible how often people dismiss it as "normal" or "natural". Even among athletes- the people who more than anyone depend on it to earn a living. According to a study from Tokyo University, 80% of people will have some kind of a back issue in their lifetime. Missed work and lower productivity from back pain costs the Japanese economy almost 3 Trillion yen yearly, and 41% of adults in Japan are suffering from some kind of musculoskeletal pain with back pain being the #1 issue. The question is then, if it’s such a big issue, why is everyone ignoring it? And the answer is simple. In the modern era, Back pain is pervasive. It's so common that people see it as natural. Especially as we get older. It is true that we can expect a certain amount of wear and tear on the body as we age. Injuries happen more easily, it takes longer to heal and we naturally lose strength and flexibility. The fact of the matter is however, the meaning of pain doesn't change with age. If it hurts that means that we are doing something wrong.
Listed below are some of the things that could be irritating or aggravating your back right now and/or could lead to you having issues in the future. Thankfully, each of these problems also has a relatively simple solution, and as such, I wanted to write this to not just make people aware of the potential sources of their problems, but also offer possible solutions to each one in turn.
PROBLEM 1: Bad posture
This issue, by far is the biggest issue for most people and as such, this is the one I would like to address first. To put it in perspective, I would like you to imagine the Eiffel Tower. Now imagine that there’s a giant steel ball at the top of that tower that comprises about 10% of the weight of the entire structure. (i.e. your head). Naturally, overtime, the weight and gravitational stress of that ball would put a certain amount of wear and tear on the tower itself. Thankfully though, as long as that ball stays squarely above the base, the design of the tower could continue to carry the weight well anyway. Now however, let's imagine what would happen if the ball wasn't above the base. Instead, it's on one side. (like when you are leaning forward). Think about how much stress that uneven pressure that would put on base of the tower. Furthermore, the longer it stays like this, the more warped the whole structure gets causing the tower itself starts to lean. This would mean other parts of the tower would have to disproportionately carry even more weight, further exacerbating the issue.
As silly of an anology as this may seem, by having bad posture, this is basically what you are doing to your back everyday. Some studies have shown that for every inch your ears are in front of your shoulders, you are putting an extra 10 lbs of pressure on your lower back. Day after day, week after week, year after year.
Standing posture aside, this also applies to when you are sitting as well. Do you lean forward when you drive? How about when you are working at a desk? If the answer to either of these is yes, then again, you are putting unnecessary wear and tear on your spine. If it isn't already causing you pain, it will lead to it in the future.
One simple solution for postural correction is a device such as Upright Go, (which I used myself). It gives you a gentle reminder to stand up straight whenever you slouch, and it only takes a few weeks of training for you to be able to take those changes to heart. If you don't feel like investing in a device, then even just asking those around you to poke you if they see you slouch is a good way to start.
If you are working on a laptop, getting a laptop stand to raise your laptop up closer to your eye-line, so you aren't looking down at it is also helpful.
Also, while sitting, it’s best to get a chairs that offers not just lower back/lumbar support, but also one that supports the head and neck as you sit. Gaming chairs are great in that they offer head and neck support, but for lower back support, mesh-back chairs (that conform to the particulars of your back’s shape) are best. There are also plenty of lumbar support pads that you can get to fit into the chair that you already have.
PROBLEM 2: Sitting for extended periods without a break
Even if you are sitting with a correct postural alignment, sitting for extended periods without a break isn’t exactly good for you. For one it leads to a weakening of the gluteal muscles which are used to support the body for even simple things like walking and standing.
It also leads to a shortening of the hip flexors, which in turn leads to them pulling on your lower back when you stand; causing pain and making you even more likely to sit. Much like with incorrect posture, the lower this goes, the more self perpetuating the problem becomes. SOLUTION:
Take regular breaks every 15-30 minutes to stand up, walk around a bit and otherwise stretch your legs.
PROBLEM 3: Using your phone too much
This again, goes back to posture. When using cell phones people tend to lean their head as much as 15 degrees forward, holding that position for as long as they are on their phone. A 15 degree lean puts as much as 27 lbs of pressure on your lower back. Personally, I first noticed this when I was doing the dishes. If there were a lot of them, after about 20 minutes my back started to ache. And the reason was because I was standing and looking down for so long.
SOLUTION: Minimize the amount of time spent on your phone; or at least, much like sitting, try not to be on it for long blocks at a time. Keep the usage short and sweet. If possible, use voice messages instead of email so you don't have to spend time looking down to type. If you have to watch content, or you have to type, do it on a PC (provided that you have the aforementioned postural set-up). PROBLEM 4: Your sleeping position While a bad sleeping position won’t necessarily lead to lower back pain, it will definately exacerbate it. The relationship between low back pain and a bad sleeping position is often found to be mutually reinforcing; not sleeping in the correct position can lead to loss of quality sleep, and loss of quality sleep leads to aggravation of injuries or in the least substantially slows down healing.
The best recommended sleeping positions are on your side with a pillow between your knees (and/or under your waist) or if you sleep on your back, doing so with a pillow under the knees. You may have to experiment a bit to find what exactly works best for you, but once you do the difference in how you feel when you wake up can be amazing.
PROBLEM 5: Loss of strength and/or flexibility Like any other system in the body over a normal lifetime there is a gradual degradation of both the spinal column and the system of muscle and connective tissues that support it. As such, in adults, general loss of both strength and flexibility can seriously be another factor that contributes to back issues; particularly when compounded with the other aforementioned habits.
The good thing about this however, is that this loss of strength and flexibility can be prevented and in many cases even rectified with proper exercises focused on developing flexibility in spinal column, hips, and thighs and strength in the abdominal, waist and back muscles. Some studies have shown that as much as 80% of back injuries can be prevented with proper strengthening and flexibility training exercises like the ones we do in SBJ’s Deskwork Injury Prevention Workshop.
In conclusion, as pervasive as back pain can be in the modern era, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t avoidable or fixable. Furthermore, while back pain may not have one easily identifiable cause, by viewing back care as an important part of one’s lifestyle; and adopting the necessary changes, one can not just lower pains that they deal with on a day to day basis, but in many cases actually get rid of it. At the end of the day, what makes us “old” isn’t necessarily our age; it’s how we feel. And getting back the strength and flexibility to alleviate the every day pains will do wonders for putting years back into your life. Chuck **While I tried to make this list comprehensive, it's important to remember that everyone's body is different. For more information on finding what exactly works for you, feel free to reach out to us via the chat box on the website or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org Sources: https://www.mana.md/text-neck/ https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/how-to-sleep-with-lower-back-pain https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/the-dangers-of-sitting http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201910110032.html https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2698265/#:~:text=Our%20previous%20study%20showed%20that,for%20both%20sexes%20%5B2%5D. #backache #backpain #backcare #injuryprevention #deskworkinjuryprevention