Lower back pain (LPB) is hugely prevalent and seen as we aren’t getting rid of our computers or cars anytime soon we best start to better understand and manage it. It took me a four year Osteopathy degree to get my head around, but we like things quick these days don’t we so I am going to do my best to give you on a run down of the common causes and how yoga could help.
For the sake of this message I am defining LBP as the daily ache or discomfort that comes from postural strain, our habitual patterns and the sedentary lifestyle that too many of us lead.
Movement is medicine and our bodies are self healing mechanisms.
These maintain their health (hydration and nutrition) from pressure, stretch, strain, torsion. All movements that are encouraged in yoga. So the more we do them the stronger and healthier our discs become, given we don’t have any underlying problems. Absence of the ability to perform these movements means when we bend down and reach for a sock we ‘pull’ or strain our back – we simply aren’t use to stretching that far or demanding that much of our body. And dehydrated discs, from lack of movement and nourishment are even less resilient to load and more susceptible to injury, plus when they take a knock they are going to have a tougher job recovering.
Those of us who have sedentary jobs (lets just say you work at a desk 9am – 5pm? And terrifyingly that might be a short day) and don’t regularly stretch out, move or mobilise our bodies allow imbalances and compensations to develop. These might lead to compression on sensitive tissues, nerve impingement, discomfort and pain.
In a seated position we place way more stress on our back, figures online suggest up to 300% of the load compared to standing. I am not the scientist behind this though so don’t take it for gold. Build up of this pressure can aggravate and irritate the nerves leaving our spinal column causing severe pain. Yoga helps us to release the load of this forward position, it also encourages us to open the hip flexors which when we are seated hold this chronically short position – placing even more load on the spine.
Lack of movement
The muscles in our body are designed to keep us upright, to stabilise and to produce force / movement. I can’t dive into how they all work but lets just look at a few big ones.
These hold our spine upright, without them we would be compressing our discs, pinching nerves and wobbling all over the show. But what do you think happens when we sit forwards as a computer? They are on stretch all day. Imagine you take an elastic band, hold it stretched out for 8 hours and notice if it bounces back. It probably would after the first stretch, but the second time maybe not so much, the third time less so and by the fourth time you start to see that it can no longer retain the shape or strength it was designed to have and hold. In the same way your extensors loose their ability to support the spine. So if you can’t change the nature of your job, maybe you find a way to strengthen your spinal extensors…yoga.
These stabilise your hips and lower back but a lot of us sit on them all day, giving them permission to turn off and not work. If we allow them to stay ‘turned off’ they become weak and lazy, so we need to strengthen them and remind them of their job. Look out for a well sequenced strong yoga class and it will quite literally ‘have your back’.
This is such mini information bomb but hopefully it helps you see how pivotal movement is. Quite honestly I don’t care if that’s yoga or not just as long as you are keeping your spine supple and strong.
Any questions you know where I am.