Eighty percent of the population experiences low back pain at some point in their lives. This condition (for which there can be a myriad of causative factors) is extremely debilitating, accounting for one of the top reasons people visit their family doctors and take time off work. The biggest predictor of low back pain is having experienced it in the past. That being said, there are many things you can do to prevent future occurrences, and reduce their intensity and duration when episodes do happen. To read more about low back pain, see my article from the CAN-FIT-PRO Journal, by clicking here.
Exercise Specialist Recommendations:
- The most important thing you can do is avoid forward flexion of the lumbar spine. Leaning forward, especially if it is repeated, causes disc delamination - wearing away of the discs between the vertebrate of the lumbar spine. Squat down to pick things up off the floor, or even better, use a "golfer's squat" - take a big step back with one foot, then bend down keeping your back as straight as possible. Do not lean over to tie shoes, rummage around a backpack that is on the floor, or over a table to sign a cheque. Keep your back straight as much as possible by placing the backpack on a table, sitting down to write and to tie up shoes or fasten boots.
- Avoid hours of uninterrupted sitting. Get up to take breaks every 30 minutes. This also reduces pooling of triglycerides in the lower body - which is why extended periods of sitting are an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease - even if recommended amounts of daily exercise is met.
- Strengthen your core musculature with evidence-based exercises, starting with very low reps and a very gradual progression.
- Work on endurance of the core musculature once you are strong enough, as endurance is very connected to low back pain prevention - like planks.
- Strengthen your upper body, so that when you lift objects your arms will be able to absorb the work, as opposed to your lower back.
- Strengthen your gluteals. Most people with low back pain have a condition called "gluteal amnesia", where the gluts are weak and dysfunctional, causing the lower back muscles to bear the brunt of dynamic forces that the gluts should be taking on.
- Use a "hip hinge" when lifting anything - this is a very small degree of hip flexion (about 2-3 degrees). "Bend at the underwear line"!
- Sleep with a pillow in between your knees, or under your knees if you sleep on your back. Use an extra firm, king-size pillow. Soft down-filled pillows will not work for this purpose.
There is much more! But the above suggestions are a good start.