I have received 10 emails in the past week from people asking me for low back help.
They are stiff, achy, lethargic, and their joints hurt.
My first question is always how much movement are you getting?
Followed by how much sitting are you doing?
Followed by how much water are you drinking?
These three simple questions play a huge part in how your overall body feels not just your back.
Lets delve deeper…
How much movement are you getting?
Muscles become more pliable the more they are used. The more you practice moving in a longer range of motion, the more comfortable you will be in that range.
Now in contrast, if you move very little, your muscles will shorten.( example- an older adult will start to shuffle as opposed to stride in their walk pattern). Why? The shuffle didn’t happen over night… Over time, the muscles of the hip, calf and hamstring shorten due to inactivity. Now when they try to lengthen their stride, they don’t feel balanced or coordinated. Also why they are always looking for the hand rail on stairs.
I have an 80 year old who I have seen in the gym 2x week for the past 14 years. He plays tennis 5 days a week and is playing doubles with guys 25 years younger than him. How does he do it? Simple… Activity… And he is smart in how he chooses to be active. He makes a point to put his body first and takes the time to address injuries or minor issues right away before they become big problems. When he enters into the gym, he strides in. Like an athlete… Not a lazy boy recliner guy watching TV.
So the lesson, move better and then move more. plain and simple. During this “stay at home” policy- stretch, walk, jog in place, squat, lunge.. I know everyone has a million reasons why they can’t move. Bad knee, back, etc. Guess what? If you want it to get worse, keep sitting in that chair!
How much sitting are you doing?
It really doesn’t matter why you are sitting, the problem is that you are SITTING!
When you sit, most of us are not great with our posture. Shoulders slumped forward, belly hanging out and low back is rounded. Feet are generally turned out. All of our stabilizer and posture muscles are turned off. Even as I write this section I have to remind myself to sit upright.
Why is this important… The more the belly sticks out, the more the low back is pulled forward. The more we sit with our hips at a 90-degree angle the more our hip flexor muscles shorten.( which pulls the belly forward even more). It also shuts down our glute muscles which are one of the key components for hip and low back stability.
All of this may be completely foreign to you but know this… When hips are pulled out of alignment, it is only a matter of time until the low back will feel the brunt of it!
How much water are you drinking?
“I drink lots of water… and soda, and beer, and wine, and iced tea, and coffee…. ” I hear this a lot…
The list is endless. But what most people don’t realize is that every beverage that has caffeine is a diuretic. Meaning, it pulls water away from your body.
Dehydration can cause back pain when the gelatinous material inside your discs lose water and are unable to hold the weight of your body, this causes the disc to collapse which can put pressure on the sensitive nerves exiting the spinal column.
Between every two vertebrae in your spine, there is a disc and its primary job is to separate interlocking bones and provide cushioning, shock absorption and mobility to the spine.
Now, it’s important to note that your discs are designed a lot like jelly donuts – they have a strong outer ring of fiber with a softer, more gelatinous substance in the center. This gelatinous center is made up primarily of water and is what provides the majority of the cushioning for your spine.
Throughout the day, as your spine is enduring natural wear and tear, the water located inside the discs gradually leaks out. Normally this isn’t a problem because gravity pulls water down your spine and allows your discs to constantly re-hydrate as you move around.
But, when you’re not drinking enough, there’s not enough water in your body to re-hydrate the discs and they begin to shrink.
This is where problems start to arise.
Remember when we said that jelly-like substance in the middle of your discs acts as a shock absorber? Well, when a disc is dehydrated it puts almost all your weight on the outer ring of the disc, which isn’t designed to carry such a heavy load, and it can actually begin to collapse under the pressure. When a disc collapses, even at a minor level, it can start putting pressure on the sensitive nerves within the spinal column which can cause pain throughout the body.
So as you can see. Sitting at home watching TV can be a mabor problem, not just for weight gain or boredom. But it can really affect your low back, joints and muscles as well.