Protect Your Low Back With These Easy Tips
Protect Your Low Back With These Easy Tips
When people think of lower back injuries they think of a sudden traumatic event that occurs while lifting, bending or twisting. While this is sometimes the case, often times lower back injuries occur due to micro-trauma.
According to the U.S Bureau of statistics, office and administrative occupations make up the largest occupation field in the United States at 16%. This means that most the working class is spending a large portion of their day sitting. Another study done by the U.S Bureau of statistics showed that most of these jobs required employees to sit for nearly 40% of the workday.
The workplace isn’t the only place where people sit, after work, people relish at the opportunity to plop down on the couch and settle in for the evening. So why would sitting all day cause a problem? Sitting seems like a fairly harmless position right? It seems like we aren’t putting any abnormal stress on the body such as lifting and twisting. Well, the human body isn’t primed to be in this position all day.
Jern Vernikos a former NASA scientist and author of Designed to Move: The Science-Backed Program to Fight Sitting Disease and Enjoy Lifelong Health. states, “Any position we hold for any length of time will eventually turn to pain because the body is not primed to do that.” She discovered that most people are sitting 6 to 13 hours a day. Humans came from origin of hunting, gathering, and moving. This is a lot different than the vast majority of people today, who spend long hours of sitting during the day.
So why is sitting an issue?
When individuals are spending 6-13 hours a day sitting, they are actually losing muscle in areas that are important for spine stability and support. Not only are muscles important in spinal stability getting weaker, but muscles aren’t very good at spine stabilization are also getting tightened.
Muscles that are getting weaker during sitting:
Muscles that are getting tighter while sitting:
- Low Back Muscles (Extensors)
- Hip Flexors
Combating these issues can seem like a daunting task based the complexity of the issue, however, we offer 4 quick tips that you can implement into your daily routine.
Easy Tip 1: Abdominal Bracing:
Having a strong and stable core is one of the best strategies that people can use to avoid lower back injuries. Abdominal bracing is a strategy that can help with this. Using an Abdominal bracing technique is important in strengthening your lower back and core musculature.
The reason why having a good muscular brace is important is because having a strong core and back musculature helps take pressure off the spine. It also helps with preventing instability in the spine. Abdominal bracing is a great, low-impact exercise that targets and strengthens your lower back and involves very little strain.
Having a strong muscular brace is much like a canister for tennis balls. Without the canister the tennis balls would be unstable. If you remove the muscular brace. you will remove the stability of the spine, much like the tennis balls.
Another important part of injury prevention for the office worker and for anyone who sits for long periods of time is proper positioning. Earlier in this article, we mentioned that desk workers potentially are spending 6-13 hours of their day in the seated position. These next two tips will give some key insights into how people can put their bodies in the right positions. Doing this will limit putting excessive stresses on the spine and the body for long periods of time. Incorporating the power zone and sternum up, will help people do just that.
Easy Tip 2: Keep things within the power zone
What is the power zone?
The power zone is keeping objects of any weight at a level or distance that is within our strength. When we get outside of that zone, that is when we compromise our shoulders, back, lower back. This area lies in the area below the shoulders, above the waist, and 18 inches in front of you, in that zone.
A good way to think of how the power zone works is holding a bowling ball. If you are holding a bowling ball and move the bowling ball farther away from you, the ball will become heavier and heavier. When you are lifting things during your daily routine, you need to keep objects within this ‘power zone” in order to avoid putting excess strain on your lower back, and musculature in general.
Easy Tip 3: Sternum Up
Sternum Up- Keeping the sternum up automatically sets the body into good posture and maintains:
- Neutral Spine: Maintaining good spinal alignment decreases the stress placed on the spine and discs.
- Hip Hinging: Bending at the hips, and not the low back, decreases the stress placed on the low back and increases strength & power.
Easy Tip 4: Use Exercises that help strengthen weakened muscles due to sitting
Glute Bridge Exercise:
How to do a glute bridge:
1) Starting Position: Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. You want to keep your arms at your side with your palms down.
2) Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Squeeze those glutes hard and keep your abs drawn in so you don’t overextend your back during the exercise.
3) Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.
Note: If you notice that you are getting over activation in your hamstrings. Bring your heals up, and drive through your heals to get greater activation in your glutes.
Note: To make the exercise a little harder: Try the single leg glute bridge. The only difference is, you are going to bring the knee of one leg up to your chest, and lift up through the other leg.
Low Back Safe Ab Crunch Glute Bridge:
One leg straight, one leg bent, arms behind the lower back
- Beginner Level: Begin a crunch, through the sternum. Holding for 6-8 seconds.
- Intermediate Level: Lift the sternum up a little higher, and elevate your elbows slightly. Holding for 6-8 seconds
- Next Level: Place hands on the forehead, and bring yourself into a crunch through your sternum holding for 6-8 seconds.
Bird Dog Exercise:
Begin on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
- While keeping your abdominals tucked under your spine, and keeping your back and pelvis stable
- Step: 1-Bring one of your legs back, holding for 6-8 seconds
- Step 2-Reach forward with one arm, holding for 6-8 seconds
While keeping your abdominals tucked under your spine, and keeping your back and pelvis stable
- Reach your right arm forward and left leg back. Holding for 6-8 seconds.
- Don’t allow the pelvis to rock side to side as you move your leg behind you.
- Focus on not letting the rib cage sag toward the floor.
- Reach through your left heel to engage the muscles in the back of the leg and your butt.
- Return to the starting position, placing your hand and knee on the floor. Repeat on the other side to complete one rep.
Side Bridge Exercise:
With the knees bent, on the ground, and lying on your elbow
- With the knees bent, on the ground, and lying on your elbow
- Bring the arm that isn’t on the ground to the opposite shoulder.
- Lift the hips up so that your legs and body make a straight line
- Hold for 6-8 seconds
- Pretty much the same as the beginner level except, the knees are off the ground, and the left leg goes over the right leg. (if you are doing a left side lying bridge.)
- Elevate the hips to the point where your hips and upper body make a straight line.
- Hold for 6-8 seconds
- Same thing as intermediate bridge
- Roll over into a “prone bridge” or plank position for 6-8 seconds
- Roll over onto other side and do the intermediate level bridge for 6-8 seconds