Do you lift heavy boxes all day at work with no problems, but then hurt your back bending over to do your shoelaces? Or even just get a niggle trying to stand up after sitting in a chair for a bit too long?
You are definitely not alone!
Up to 80% of people suffer from low back pain at some point during their lifetime, unfortunately low back pain is extremely prevalent and can be very debilitating, affecting not only your work but your simple day to day activities as well.
Whilst your spine is an incredibly strong structure, able to effectively tolerate and re-distribute load around the body, it can still be overloaded and irritated, especially with bending, if other muscles/structures aren’t helping out.
Onset of low back pain is commonly associated with heavy lifting, repetitive lifting and/or awkward twisting movements.
But why do some people who do that all day for work end up getting low back pain after simply bending over or picking up light/small objects?
1 – It’s likely been in the works for a while
Restrictions in mobility and/or strength deficits in other parts of the body can result in changes in biomechanics and tissue loading, as other structures will attempt to compensate and shoulder some of the load. This cycle of load re-distribution can continue until eventually the spine and/or surrounding structures become overloaded and painful. Even though you may have been lifting bricks or heavy boxes all week, even a seemingly simple task can be ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ so to speak.
2 – Lack of Awareness
Often people are more aware and cautious of how they lift heavy objects compared to lighter ones, especially when outside of a ‘work’ context. This lack of attention to the way in which you bend for lighter/everyday objects, can often result in poor lifting mechanics which can increase loading through the back. Lifting, even with lighter objects, needs the same level of intention to ensure optimal loading throughout the body.
3 – Bending Technique
Bending by excessively moving from your lower back rather than using your legs can increase the load going through your spine, which can contribute to the onset of low back pain. Commonly this can be triggered during or directly after a heavy lift, however it can also happen whilst lifting lighter objects when structures around the spine may be fatigued and weak as a result of being overloaded.
By bending from your hips (as opposed to just bending with your knees), you are able to maintain a neutral spine position, whilst also effectively activate your posterior chain muscles (eg, your glutes) to efficiently lift up any object, minimising the load having to go through your back.
So, knowing all of that, here are 3 ways to keep your back safe:
1 – Address any mobility and strength deficits
2 – Ensure you move with intention
3 – Minimise unnecessary loading of your back
Follow these three tips and you will be in a much better place to fight off unexpected episodes of low back pain, meaning you’re injury free and able to perform at your best!
Final thought: look after your back and it will look after you
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This blog was written by Sam Dally – Physiotherapist at Precision Physio St Marys. If you would like more information, or to work specifically with Sam, you can contact him through the Precision Physio St Marys clinic: 02 9623 2220 or book in online.