3 Tips for Preventing Low Back Pain

Let’s face it, just about all of us have dealt with back pain at one point or another. The ACA (American Chiropractic Association) reports that 50% of working Americans will have back pain EACH year and 80% will have it at some point in their lifetime.1 I guess you could say we’ve become accustomed to dealing with back pain. Did you know that Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain?2 So let’s talk about 3 ways you can work to prevent yourself from becoming part of that 50 billion.

1.       Avoid Prolonged Sitting: For the majority of us, sitting is a large part of the day. Whether it is the commute to work, the 8-hour work day at a desk, or even studying for a test, we sit a lot. So why is sitting bad for the back? Stuart McGill PhD, world renowned spine expert, writes that sitting:3

·       Increases intradiscal (disc) pressure compared to standing

·       Increases low back ligament strain

·       Decreased anterior-posterior stiffness (decreases stability in the low back)

2.       Make sure that your hips and thoracic spine (mid and upper back) are mobile. The lumbar spine (low back) is meant to move, but probably more importantly, it is meant to be stable and transfer force generated from the hips to the upper body. Tight hip flexors and a stiff thoracic spine can lead to the low back having to over extend. Get an assessment by a professional to make sure that your movement is where it needs to be. A weak core can also contribute to low back pain by not creating a stable environment for the lumbar spine.

3.       Dial-in your technique. If you spend time working out, playing sports, or have hobbies that require you to be active, make sure that you are paying attention to technique and not sacrificing your low back for the sake of performance. Be aware of the position of your pelvis when you’re running. If you’ve ever had that annoying low back pain mid-way through a run, you’re probably hyper-extending your low back. Additionally, pay attention to your low back during deadlifting and make sure you lock that lumbar spine in neutral. Coaches are there for a reason, and their cues can be a back saver.

Try these three tips for reducing low back pain, and feel free to post any questions!

1.       Vallfors B. Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.

2.       In Project Briefs: Back Pain Patient Outcomes Assessment Team (BOAT). In MEDTEP Update, Vol. 1 Issue 1, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Rockville, MD.

3.       Low Back Disorders: Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation. Stuart McGill. Human Kinetics. 2007.