Many people consider that their low back pain was caused by a single incident. However, this is rarely the case. Most peoples’ low back pain is from an accumulation of stresses resulting from poor movement patterns and minor lifting strains.
Serious low back injuries such as lumbar disc herniations / protrusions (commonly called “slipped discs”) are caused by repeated or prolonged full flexion (or bending) of the lumbar spine. These injuries could often be avoided by following some very simple rules:
- Keep a straight spine.
- Bend from the hips and not the back.
- If lifting a weight, bring the weight close to the body.
For lifting light objects, golfers have discovered a great spine-sparing lifting posture. As they bend down to pick up the ball from the hole, they will lift one leg to act as a counterweight which will assist as they rotate the upper body back into the upright position. This is great around the home when we have to pick up small and light objects (generally children’s toys!). This movement pattern not only keeps the spine straight, but allows the person to utilise their hips in the movement.
For objects that are more heavy, we can learn from Olympic weight lifters. To gain maximal strength while lifting extremely heavy barbells the athlete will lock their spine in neutral. To lift they will then emphasise rotation about the hips. In reality, aim to keep the weight of any object as close to your body as possible. Then you lift up through your buttocks and thighs, rotating around the hips while keeping the back straight. This spine-sparing movement will avoid injuring the delicate discs.
To make a mental picture I tell my patients to not be afraid to “stick their bum out”. I ask them to practice this lifting style while brushing their teeth, then, as they bend to turn the tap on or off, to keep the legs and back straight while bending from the hips. It often highlights the poor flexibility in the hamstring muscles that many people have, and encourages them to stretch a bit more!
At Shirley Rd Chiropractic we believe that education and knowledge is the best prevention for low back pain. So, to learn more about core stability and the low back injury visit exercise and core stability, or discover more about disc herniation.