Back Pain

If you’re sitting down and reading this, your lower back might be hurting.  Want to fix the problem?  Stand up and keep reading.

First the bad news, if you haven’t experienced back pain, chances are you will.  Back pain is very prevalent and studies show that 65% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lifetime.

Next the good news, back pain is more prevalent among those that don’t exercise.

While back pain can put a halt to exercise, it is often normal everyday activities that lead to the onset or worsening of back pain.  Sitting at work, in the car or on an airplane is frequently a source of aggravation that can affect later exercise.  Sitting, and all activities that round the back, puts pressure on the lower back disks and can lead to back pain and potential bulging or herniation of the disk.  Research shows that one third of those that sit for work will experience back pain.

Recent research in the Journal of Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy reported the results of a posture education and exercise program in a group of office workers.  The research study implemented a posture education and exercise program among office workers that dramatically reduced the incidence of lower back pain.  Not surprisingly, the results of the study point to the importance of posture and exercise for good back health.

Good posture habits should include frequent, short duration sitting breaks and avoiding the slumped posture by sitting “tall”.

If left untreated, back pain can become chronic and will often force a stop to exercise and activity.  While some activities can be linked to back pain, stopping exercise won’t necessarily cure the problem.

But all exercise is not created equal.  Common advice to those that experience back pain usually includes stretching the hamstrings and hitting the gym for some crunches.  The problem with this advice?  There isn’t any medical research that has been able to find a link between tight hamstrings and low back pain.  What’s more, stretching the hamstrings can also pull on nerves in the leg that are already aggravated, and make “sciatica” symptoms worse.

How about those ab exercises?  Well, while crunches can be an important piece of a core strengthening program, the abs are only a part of the core and other important muscles shouldn’t be excluded.  In fact, one research study that focused on back pain in a group of triathletes found that those that performed more ab work actually were more likely to experience back pain.  The researchers concluded that the athletes spent too much time on ab strengthening and not enough time strengthening other important core muscles such as the lower back, obliques, hip muscles and legs.

Back pain can become chronic and can prevent many from enjoying activities that they enjoy.  However, a small investment in posture and exercise can prevent back pain from becoming a problem.