What causes back pain and how to reduce your risk

Andf Of all the areas of our body, our back is the most susceptible to injury. Nick Rolnick, DPT, known as “The Human Performance Mechanic,” says, “Eighty-five percent of people, at any given time, will experience some degree of back pain each year.”

Dr. Rolnick’s mission is to help people experience the joy of pain-free movement. He says most of his clients are desk workers, many of whom have back problems. But regardless of what you do for a living, the cause of back pain is almost always the same: repetitive motion, specifically, spending too much time in a bent position (rounded in the front).

“It’s not that activities like bending or twisting are necessarily bad,” says Dr. Rolnick “It’s just that we, as a society, are very flexion-oriented, so much of what we do involves bending our back forward.”

At some point, it’s completely normal. “Our spine is designed to bend, flex and extend,” says Dr. Rolnick. We simply spend more time in flexion, where our back muscles stretch, and not enough time in extension (back bending), where our back muscles contract. This creates muscle imbalance and weakness.

“When we constantly put our spine in one position, it can develop sensitivity to that position and start causing us problems,” says Dr. Rolnick. “It just so happens that because our society involves a lot of sitting — which is bending — our backs and the structures around our backs that are tense in flexion are loaded more than the structures that are tensed during extension.”

3 Everyday Habits That Can Cause Back Pain

1. Do not use some sort of lower back support while sitting

“Most of us have desk jobs, so we’re constantly in this sitting position, which we call end-range flexion,” says Dr. Rollnick. “This means that our lower back is making the same movement as if we were reaching to touch our toes.”

It is important to create a little more extension in this position in the form of lower back support. In particular, Dr. Rolnick likes and recommends the McKenzie Lumber Roll ($25). But, he says, you have to make sure you use it correctly for it to be effective.

“Where your back is bent, that’s where you stand,” he says. For proper placement, scoot your glutes toward the back of the chair and then place the roller in the small of your back. “This will provide a little more support for your lower back and prevent you from going into that end range.”

2. Staying in any one position too long

Changing your position throughout the day is the most important thing you can do for your back (and body in general). Just like that notification on your smartwatch tells you, Dr. Rollnick says if you’re sitting, you should get up for at least one to two minutes every hour.

Even if you’re standing, you still want to mix things up. “For example, vacuuming; that might be, well, we’re going to vacuum for five minutes in the position we want, and then we’ll spend another minute—not much—in the position a little bit more extension.”

3. Poor workplace arrangements

No matter what you do for a living, it’s important to keep an eye out for any areas in your environment that allow you to be unnecessarily flexible. If you work at a computer, the second most important thing after proper lower-back support is the position of your screen. “I tell my patients that a good rule of thumb is two inches below eye level,” says Dr. Rolnick. Your keyboard should also be close enough that you don’t have to lean forward to reach it.

The real culprit for back pain or injury is repetitive motion, so take stock of what you do repeatedly at work and see if there are ways to break up the routine, especially if those motion patterns require a lot of hip or knee bending or bending, as well as twisting. —Especially when moving heavy loads. You can apply this same logic at home. (Two areas to keep in mind are cleaning and tasks like unloading the dishwasher.)

Why Your Everyday Habits Don’t Cause Back Pain

Dr. Rollnick emphasizes that it’s not activities that require bending, such as sitting or vacuuming, that cause back pain or injury. “In short, we don’t get injured by bending over,” he says. Rather, he explains, “when we’re constantly in this flexed position, certain tissues are stressed or compressed and they accumulate microtraumas over time.”

Your body naturally heals or repairs these microtears on its own while you sleep, but the more time you spend in any one position, the more microtrauma you’re creating in those muscles, and if you don’t give yourself enough time to recover, you’ll injure yourself. are at an increased risk for

According to Dr. Rolnick, once you exceed your body’s ability to handle the stress you’re putting it under, that’s when injuries occur. “It’s important that we accommodate for this in our daily lives and try to get more movement variability,” he says. “It really could be anything. I was told once a long time ago and it’s true: ‘Our best pose is our next pose.'”

Getting good sleep, managing your stress, eating nutritious foods and exercising are also important, as they all contribute to your overall health and ability to recover properly. “Back pain is more like the common cold, so 90 percent-plus of the time, it will get better on its own within six weeks,” says Dr. Rolnick. If it doesn’t, or you’re in severe pain, consider seeing a specialist who can help get your back back on track.

This Pilates workout to stretch and strengthen your back is a great place to start:

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