28 May Do you stack up? Back pain 101
28 May 2019
I’m betting most of you agree that we live in a world that often compromises the way we move our bodies. This limits our range of motion, which can consequently cause muscle imbalances and mechanical failures in the long term. But by being aware of some of the major causes of back pain, you can be more mindful about how to avoid them. So, what are they?
Common causes of back pain
1. Sitting down for long and extended periods
Let’s start with the obvious! This isn’t necessarily targeted at those who sit at computers all day or on the couch watching Netflix all night. If this is the case, get up and move about regularly! It’s important to remember that some people, like those who drive all day, don’t have the freedom to get up as much.
2. Incorrect training techniques at the gym or at yoga centres
Just because you exercise or practice yoga doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing it right. Always have your techniques assessed by a qualified professional to make sure you’re performing them correctly! Sometimes it may even be simple everyday movements to be mindful of. Like bending or twisting to pick up the shopping or the kids.
3. Poor breathing patterns
Yup, that’s right! You’d be surprised to know that if you’re a shallow breather or hold your breath throughout the day, you’re likely causing dysfunction to the diaphragm and other breathing muscles involved. Deep breathing is of great importance here.
The best way to know if any of these are impacting you is to come in for an assessment. We can help you get on the right path.
Stack up to manage back pain
Have you ever noticed the human musculoskeletal posters that we have in our treatment rooms? Have you studied them carefully? In case you haven’t, we’ve popped a photo above.
One thing you may notice on them is how ‘upright’ or ‘heroic’ looking the stance of the figure is (let’s call him Bob). On the side view, you can normally draw a vertical line from Bob’s ear through the tip of his shoulder, hip socket and knee joint to the base of his foot. Bob’s parts are stacked up vertically.
According to physics, when parts are stacked up vertically, no ‘work’ is required to hold the structure in place, like a Jenga stack. However, work is required to hold parts that aren’t stacked up vertically. In human terms, examples include a forward head and neck, rounded shoulders, hunched back, arched lower back and tilted pelvis. The extra work performed by the muscles and tendons involved means that they eventually become tense, sore and malfunction. Massage is very effective in releasing this tension and pain but since the root cause is still there, treatments are often just maintenance measures and not a long term solution. Here are some of my simple and practical tips about how you can improve your ‘stacking’ in your upper body and be just like Bob (…talk about speaking one out of their job haha).
Step 1. Be proud and open your chest
Firstly, take a deep breath, note how you can open your chest. Your shoulders should be more in line with your spine now.
Step 2. Place your ears above your shoulders
Then, bring your head back, placing your ears vertically above your shoulders. Also make sure your chin is not sticking out.
Step 3. Hold your hands behind your back
To make it easier to keep the above posture, clasp your hands together and place them gently below your lower back.
You might find the above difficult to hold or it may feel unnatural. But the more you do it, the easier it’ll get. It’s all about changing muscle memory. The actions are small and inconspicuous, so you can do them anywhere, anytime. At your desk, waiting for a bus, at a supermarket checkout or when giving a work presentation. Just imagine how confident and impressive you’ll look! Happy stacking!