Oh my Back! Why it hurts and what to do about it. 

 January 31, 2020

By  Laura Warf

If you have ever experienced any form of back pain, you are not alone.

The statistics have not changed much over the past twenty years.  It is reported that 80% of North Americans deal with back pain in varying degrees.

Why is back pain such an epidemic?

What can we do about it?

It is possible that back issues are even more prevalent today due the over-use of technology: prolonged sitting in front of the computer screen, hunched over tablets and iPads, poor posture while texting, poor spinal alignment while playing video games etc. Can you relate?

Our bodies are designed to move. Get up and move every hour for at least 5 minutes.

Too much sitting leads to poor circulation and weak muscles that eventually lose their resilience and as a result, tighten up to support the joints. Inflexible muscles and poor circulation can lead to mild discomfort and eventual pain due to a poorly functioning system.

In this blog, we will explore the many reasons why so many people experience back pain. I will share a little secret with you towards the end that many medical professionals don’t talk enough about.

Just practicing this simple technique for a few minutes per day could make all the difference in your overall well-being leading to greater success in all areas of life.

The Mend my Back Program summarized seven common causes of back pain:

  • Poor posture
  • Bio-mechanics of movement
  • Compensation patterns
  • Elevated stress levels and unresolved emotions
  • Acute injuries
  • Degenerative changes in the spine
  • Some medical conditions

This blog will address the element of Posture.

What to do first:

Get a proper diagnosis from a back care specialist. Sports medicine doctors, osteopaths, physiotherapists and chiropractors and some athletic therapists are trained to evaluate and help determine the root cause of pain.

It is not always easy or simple to find the source of re-occurring pain. Different professionals will offer varying opinions based on their experience and knowledge. If you can, it is a good idea to explore different options to find the one that works for you. Back pain is complex and multi-faceted. What is your pain trying to tell you?

Start with something we can all improve.
Power up your Posture

Posture refers to the position in which we hold our body when standing or sitting.
Good posture refers to the maintenance of neutral spine. A healthy spine has three natural curves. When properly aligned, muscles, tendons, ligaments and tissues can function more efficiently thereby putting less strain on the joints of the spine which could cause wear and eventual inflammation and pain. 

If you were to look at yourself in a mirror from a side profile, imagine a straight line that intersects your ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. Our weight distribution should be even on both feet, the knees unlocked, the pelvis neutral, upper arm bones rolled back, and the crown of the head lifts upward.

Why do we have poor posture?

It can be caused by a variety of factors:  a sedentary lifestyle, too much sitting, crooked body position while using technology, poor sleeping habits, stress of any kind, internal tension, unresolved/pent-up emotions, injury, lack of flexibility and/or stability of the muscles that affect the health of the spine.

The secret...
Two foundational factors to improve our well-being include; how we maintain our body in reference to posture and how we breathe. Both are learned habits. No human is immune to bad habits. Once we become aware of them and how they are impacting our health negatively, we can choose to change them.

Being intentional and making better choices are the first steps. The good news is the brain will groove new patterns for whatever you tell it to do repeatedly.

Healthy posture requires some maintenance. Once imbalances are identified, we may design a balanced program that includes core stabilization, spinal, shoulder and hip mobility along with stability exercises for the core, torso, glutes and thighs.  Learning how to breathe properly will also help unleash deep held tensions which contribute to pain. 

We’ll address the subject of breathing more in depth in our next blog, stay tuned.

Better posture while you sit

Are your shoulders rounded forward?

Try this chest opening, pectoral stretch...

Every part of our body is connected, for example if the shoulders are rounded forward due to poor office ergonomics, the position of the head may move forward leading to greater strain on the neck.

Example : Sit up straight with the spine lengthened, and pull the chin inward to elongate the back of the neck.

Stretch the pectoral area by gently reaching for the back of your chair to open up the chest, upper arm bones roll back, the shoulder blades draw towards one another without over straining, hold for 5 deep breaths.

Do your hips feel stiff when you stand up?

If the hip flexors or hamstrings are tight due to several consecutive hours of sitting, over a period of time the pelvis compensates by rocking forward or back thereby straining the lower back.

Stretch your hips and hamstrings often.

Example : Try these two seated stretches daily. Go to the point of tension, hold without bouncing for 6 deep breaths.

Figure 4 stretch:

Sit tall, cross your left ankle over the right knee, (if not possible extend the right leg a bit until you can cross the ankle over the leg below the knee). Notice the stretch in the left hip area and buttocks, if you need more stretch, slightly lean the torso forward until you feel it (without bouncing), hold for 5 breaths. Repeat with your right leg.

Seated hamstring stretch:

Sit tall, with the left foot in contact with the floor, extend the right leg outward, press into your right heel and gently imagine pulling your right hip slightly back, tip the torso forward just enough to feel the pull in the back of the leg, hold for 5 slow deep breaths. Repeat with left leg.

Consistency is key when it comes to improving your posture. With some body awareness, a willingness to improve, along with a few dedicated minutes per day, you will experience encouraging improvements.

Better backs for life,
Laura and Ian

Laura Warf

Laura Warf is the founder of the School of Happiness, an online Holistic Wellness Center. Laura's methods are based on tools from ancient teachings to today’s current research that will inspire others to take charge of their complete well-being by following 8 essential elements to health and happiness. She is a passionate wellness educator and mind-body specialist offering services in yoga, meditation, energetic balancing, and fitness conditioning. Visit www.LauraWarf.com & www.SchoolofHappiness.ca

Laura Warf

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