So what can you do to reduce your risk of low back pain?
The number one rule of thumb for preventing back pain is to practice good posture. The force of gravity weighs on us every day. Think of your posture right now as your reading this guide. Are you sitting or standing up straight? Good posture is literally the foundation of every position and every movement your body undertakes.
So what does good posture look like? First, it’s important to understand that there are three normal curves to your spine: An inward neck curve (lordosis), an outward upper back curve (kyphosis), and an inward lumbar curve (lordosis). Maintaining these curves at all times (while sitting still or running a marathon) is critical to decreasing your probability of back pain.
If someone was looking at you in the standing position from the side, the following cues should be followed to maintain proper posture:
- Your ears should be centered over your shoulders, your shoulders should be centered over your hips, your hips should be centered over your knees, and your knees should be centered over your ankles.
- Your head should be level with the floor. It should feel as if a string from the sky was attached to the top of your head, pulling it straight up.
- Your ankles should be level with the ground.
Simple right? It’s simple in theory but oftentimes difficult to maintain throughout the day.
In the seated position, one needs to again think “head up” first. Second, you want your ears over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips. And lastly you want your hips and knees at 90 degrees.
10 years ago, people with back pain were told to do sit ups. We know now after years of clinical research that sit ups do not prevent or even improve back pain. What we do know is that strengthening your core holistically is what helps to eliminate and reduce the probability of future back pain.
So what does “strengthening your core holistically” look like? In order to activate your core, bring your belly button to your spine, while maintaining normal breathing. This is called “abdominal hollowing” and you are activating your transverse abdominis muscle. This muscle is one of the most important core muscles to engage when performing activities, as it truly stabilizes and supports your core. The more you can engage this muscle, the more likely you are to prevent back pain.
It is sometimes hard for someone to know whether or not they are truly engaging their transverse abdominis because it is different than just trying to suck in your stomach. Try performing this around a trained professional and they can help you perform this successfully.
It takes 66 days on average to form a habit. If you make a point over the next two months to maintain good posture, strengthen your core, and maintain flexibility, you’ll be on the right track to preventing low back pain.