Monday, November 29, 2010

Low Back Pain: Quick Fix or Permanent Fix?

When a person feels low back discomfort due to sitting at a desk for hours or driving a long distance, they tend to feel that their lower back needs stretching. So they immediately put their feet together and reach down to try to touch their toes.

As they hang in that position they will feel instant relief because the erectors of the lower back are "moving"due to the pelvis rotating. The muscles are being lengthened to a degree and the "creep" that they feel  subsides simply due to the rotating pelvis. So what do people usually do? They bend over more and more. As we observe further, typically people that are tight in the lower back will have incredibly tight hip flexors that pull the pelvis forward. If they have been sitting at desk jobs for most of their lives, chances are they are incredibly immobile in the hips and the lower back takes a brute of the load. The hamstrings also become shortened simply from inactivity and eventually weaken.

Same stuff you always read right? What about the veterbal disks? Dr. Stuart McGill, in his book "Ultimate Back Fitness & Performance" stated that excessive mobility in the lumbar spine can cause injury to the lumbar facets and increase low back pain. Certainly, simply bending over to touch your toes doesn't make one more mobile in the lumbar spine.

In unhealthy and inactive persons, these veterbal discs really take a beating because people look for some of the craziest ways to feel relief from lower back discomfort:

I try to lure my clients away from many of these movements that may seem like an instant antidote; but may be riskier in the long run for their performance on a daily scale. In the grand scheme of things, when dealing with tight lower backs and discomfort, I try to stay away from the anecdotal "band-aid" type fixes. It's important to instruct people on proper mechanics and continuously groove these new patterns into their daily movements. For instance, simply moving the hips and getting them involved at movements occurring at the trunk will stave off much of the load the lower back receives. One of the first techniques taught is the Hip Hinge:

By allowing the hips to collaboratively assist in much of the bending that occurs at the lumbar spine, we've eliminating much of the "after-effect" discomfort that is associated with the lower back.  By actively stretching those lower erectors through this vital movement greatly reduces the fatigue and discomfort felt after being seated for 2-4 hours. Over the years, we are exposed to many methods or gadgets that are marketed as being low back savers. Such activities as yoga and massages may work for some; not all methods that we are exposed to actually work:

The only method I have seen that works for the long haul is simply proper instruction of optimal mechanics. I know it's not a QUICK FIX, but it is a long lasting solution to a very serious problem. And believe it or not, there ARE gadgets are there that DO work in this method:


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