Lower back pain is extremely common. It is so common that 8 out of 10 people will experience it at some point in their lives.
Lower back pain can be caused by many factors. These include factors such as genetics or birth defects (spondylolysis), trauma (falls or car accidents), infections (bacterial infections or even TB of the spine), and poor posture and movement patterns. Sometimes a combination of causes is to blame for our lower back pain. Out of all the factors I’ve listed, the one that we have the most control over on a day to day basis, is our posture and our movement patterns.
The most at risk postures for developing lower back pain are sitting and bending postures. These two postures when performed badly put our spines at a high risk of developing lower back pain, and people who do a lot of sitting and people who perform a lot bending are often the people who complain of lower back pain. Think of office workers, drivers, nurses, machine operators, fatory workers, manual workers and more. These people and others who engage in a lot of sitting and/or bending on a day to day basis are the people who are at risk and who do develop lower back pain. Does that sound like most of us? Exactly, hence the high incidence of lower back pain!
One of the most important elements of our posture in helping to prevent lower back pain, is the s-curve of our spine and maintaining the s-curve of our spine in different postures and movement patterns.
The spinal s-curve consists of 3 different curves. There’s a curve that goes in at the neck (the cervical lordosis), followed by the curve that goes out in the upper back (the thoracic kyphosis) and the curve that goes in again at the lower spine (the lumbar lordosis). The depths of these curves may vary in different people, but we all have the 3 curves illustrated below and they are very important for our biomechanics and general spinal health.
The importance of these curves in helping to prevent lower back pain, is that these spinal curves throw our centre of gravity between our feet. With our centre of gravity lying between our feet, the compressive and shearing forces on our spine which may lead to lower back pain are reduced. Keeping these shearing and compressive forces as low as possible acting on our spine helps to keep the forces acting on our backs within limits that our body tissues can naturally withstand, which then helps to reduce or prevent lower back pain.
When we change these curves through engaging in poor posture while sitting, standing, lifting, driving, picking up children etc., we increase the forces on our spine unnecessarily causing many problems with the complex spinal biomechanics and anatomy that result in injury and lower back pain.
How often do you lose your spinal curve in your activities during your day? Do you suffer from back pain? Is your poor posture partly to blame?
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