by Thommy Chui, PT, OCS, CSCS, TPI CGFI MP2
What does it mean when someone says I threw my back out? Was it spring cleaning and this person decided, I don’t want it anymore?
As a Physical therapist, all too often I hear the phrase” I threw my back out”, followed by… “all I’ve done for the last week is lie down, take pain medication, and rest. I didn’t want to make it worse.”
Our human anatomy and physiology was developed to move, however our increasingly sedentary work duties and lifestyles have done quite the opposite. Whether it’s sitting watching TV, sitting in front of a computer station for hours without breaks, sitting in meetings , or traveling by car or airplane to then sit in meetings, we just aren’t moving as much anymore.
Studies have shown that prolonged sitting can contribute to decreased disc height in our lower back. Additionally, extensive sitting produces overly tight hip muscles and weakness in the low back and gluteal muscles. The result is an imbalance in our core stability.
The most common non-traumatic ways in which people injure their lower back is by bending, standing from a chair, turning or twisting. This is when we “throw our backs out.” What does this mean? It means that since we have an imbalance in our core stabilization, our muscles are not working in harmony. Specific muscles around our spine end up compensating and can progressively become overworked, setting the stage for injury. The pain we feel initially is usually tension or spasms of these overworked muscles. Remember the root of the problem is weakness and inadequate stability caused by not moving enough.—so the last thing you should to do when your back is sore or in pain is lie down and not move!
Research shows that continued mobility in pain free ranges in combination with modification of activities helps decrease pain significantly.
Below are some recommendations for strength and mobility exercises along with safe techniques for getting in/out of bed and standing up from chairs without exacerbating your back pain. Try these the next time you have back pain and it may help avoid a trip to your doctor’s office.
LOG ROLL (4 steps):
LUMBAR ROTATION, TRUNK ROTATION
– O’sullivan, K et al. “Lumbar posture and trunk muscle activation during a typing task when sitting on a novel dynamic ergonomic chair.” Ergonomics. 2012;55(12):1586-95. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2012.721521. Epub 2012 Sep 25.
– Zemp, R “In vivo spinal posture during upright and reclined sitting in an office chair.” Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:916045. doi: 10.1155/2013/916045. Epub 2013 Sep 24.
– Lee SH, et al “The change of whole lumbar segmental motion according to the mobility of degenerated disc in the lower lumbar spine: a kinetic MRI study.” Eur Spine J. 2014 Mar 28.
– Kline JB et al. “Core strength training using a combination of home exercises and a dynamic sling system for the management of low back pain in pre-professional ballet dancers: a case series.”J Dance Med Sci. 2013;17(1):24-33.