It’s Not Your Lower Back’s Fault!
When I was at school, I had a lovely maths teacher called Mrs Boyce. Unlike many of my classes, Mrs Boyce allowed us to sit where we like. I’m sure the intention was that by giving us some autonomy she was hoping to be repaid with good behaviour.
Unfortunately, my best friend, Kyle, and I just couldn’t help ourselves from chattering. We were told so many times to be quiet that eventually we got split up and sat in opposite corners of the room.
I used to love maths class because it was an opportunity to do puzzles for an hour, and I love puzzles!
One day, the class was sitting quietly in concentration working through the exercises when there was a bang of a rubber hitting the wall above my best friend’s head. “Woah Chris!”, he shouted. He pretended I had thrown it at him, when really, he had thrown it at the wall himself, bored and wanting to cause me some trouble.
Mrs Boyce shot me a glare and told me to stop throwing things at my friend. “But…”, I knew it was a lost cause. “Ok, Mrs Boyce”. I got my head back into my workbook and a few minutes later, the same banging noise came but this time it was a pen hitting the wall followed by my friend shouting, “Chris! What are you doing?!”. Mrs Boyce was getting angry now and I got a proper telling off.
I was stuck. You can’t grass your best friend up, but I didn’t want the consequences that were about to come from Mrs Boyce. My only hope was to get on with the maths problems and hope that my friend had had his fun for the day.
Alas, five minutes later, when Mrs Boyce had her back to the class Kyle picked up his entire metal pencil case and lobbed it at the wall, pens, pencils and protractors scattering all over his corner of the room in an almighty bang.
“Christopher!”, Mrs Boyce screamed, “Get out!”.
Kyle had well and truly won that round. When I was standing outside in the hallway the headmaster happened to be doing the rounds, so not only did I get a telling off from dear Mrs Boyce, but also the headmaster, and that was no box of chocolates I can tell you.
What is the point of this story? Well, sometimes it really isn’t your fault!
This brings me on to your lower back. If you have lower back pain, I can guarantee it’s not your lower back’s fault. You see, the lower back has friends too. Its closest friends are the hips and the thoracic spine (your upper back, between the shoulder blades).
There are many reasons why you may have lower back pain, but I am going to tell you three of them.
1. TIGHT HIPS
If you have restricted hips, when you perform a function like picking something up, or twisting, rather than the movement coming from the hips, your body asks other areas to do the work so you can achieve the task. This can ask too much of your lower back and overload it, thus leading to injury.
Spending some time stretching each week is the solution to preventing tight hips.
2. WEAK HIPS
Our hips are our powerhouse of movement. If you’ve ever had a golf lesson, learnt to throw a punch or hit a perfect backhand, what do they say? “It’s all in the hips”. Strong glutes initiate a chain reaction that creates power in our movement, and if they are weak, the body will recruit more from their closest friends – the lower back muscles. The lower back isn’t designed to be as powerful as the hips, so again, asking too much from it will increase the risk of injury.
Learning to squat, especially the “below parallel” squat where your hips go below the level of your knees is the best exercise to strengthen the glutes. If this seems too hard, simply doing repetitions of getting up and down from a chair would also be a good exercise for you.
3. TIGHT THORAX
Too much sitting and desk work can be the culprit for tightening your upper back. If this area is tight, like when the hips are tight, your body will ask for motion from elsewhere when it’s needed.
The lower back is a target because often the thorax and the hips are tight at the same time, so the lumbar region is getting overloaded from above and below. No rest for the wicked!
If you suffer with lower back pain, it’s super important to figure out which of the lower back’s friends are causing the problem. When in pain, it’s human nature to focus on it, but that’s where an expert eye can help you solve the problem and fix the cause of it.
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