the dreaded lower back

Have you ever met someone with a lower back problem?  Maybe you’ve even had one yourself.  It wouldn’t be surprising.  Low back problems are rampant in the US.  Why?

Well, basically, we sit too much, we sit badly, and we wear awful shoes.

When we sit for extended periods of time, the muscles at the front of the hips (hip flexors) and the ones behind (glutes) get out of balance — the front becomes over-tight and the back becomes under-tight, from being in that position all day.  Makes sense.  Under-tight muscles don’t work the way they’re supposed to, so other nearby muscles take over for them.  What’s near your butt?  If you said “low back,” you’re correct!  Also, we tend to sit slouched, which makes muscles work that aren’t supposed to work when you’re sitting.

How can I fix this?

First: get out of your chair.  If you can work standing up, do it!  Or at least do it for part of the day.

If you can’t work standing up, get up, walk around and stretch for a few minutes at least once per hour.

You can also sit up.  I learned to sit up comfortably through Alexander Technique.  It really can be done.

While you’re sitting, sit with both feet on the floor.  Crossing your legs, especially at the knee, distorts your body.

Do exercises for your lower back.  Many people avoid low back exercises because they are afraid of hurting their backs.  But if you don’t strengthen those muscles, they become much more susceptible to injury.  I don’t recommend that you go try to do a back extension with 50 pounds, but please, exercise those muscles the same as any other.

Bend your knees to pick stuff up.  Do you have access to a toddler?  Watch them.  Watch how they move, how they sit and stand.  That’s how we’re made to move — they just haven’t been corrupted yet.  When a toddler wants to pick up something from the floor, s/he squats down and picks it up.  You never see a little kid bend at the waist or hips to pick something up.

When you are standing around, equally distribute your weight on both feet.  When you stand with your hips cocked, it throws your entire body alignment out of whack.

Also while you’re standing, keep your knees soft.  Locked knees make your back unhappy.

Wear flat shoes.  Shoes with a heel require you to arch your back to stand up straight.  Plus, when you walk in a shoe with a heel, your gait is disturbed by the shoe hitting the ground before your heel ought to be — it puts a lot of pressure through your ankles, knees, hips, and back.

While you are standing with both feet on the floor and your knees soft, squeeze your butt.  When your butt is squeezed, it largely disengages the low back muscles.

Go give some of these a try!

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3 responses to this post.

  1. the dreaded lower back…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  2. Posted by Lisa on 10 July 2010 at 12:28

    You’ve probably read about the study where they found that even just standing up can help people lose weight, but in case others haven’t: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/DyeHard/story?id=3922069&page=1

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