The Top 5 Ways To Prevent Lower Back Pain
Here are the top 5 things you need to do to prevent the debilitating nature of low back pain.
- Strengthen Your Glutes!
Your glutes are your primary muscles that execute hip extension, its your ability to extend at the hip with your legs. To give you a picture of this motion, it is what propels you forward when you plant your leg in front of you during running and pulls you forward. Anytime your glutes aren’t strong enough or not activating as needed (more on this later) other muscles take on the workload. Most notably is the muscles in your low back. This not only can contribute to increased compressional loading on vertebral joints but also leads to muscle fatigue.
Here is a video of one of the better exercises you can do to strengthen your glutes.
- Improve your Aerobic Capacity
Muscle fatigue in your low back is something that we deal with, in particular since we sit so much in our day to day life. (Sitting requires a surprising amount of muscle activation, in particular in your lower back). The fatigue leads to the development of pain producing trigger points and tissue necrosis (tissue death). When we are young we have ample amounts of capillaries, small blood vessels, to deliver oxygen to requiring tissues so the above mentioned fatigue doesn’t develop. However, by our 4th decade in life, our 30’s, those capillaries start to die, the walls thicken and oxygen transportation begins to diminish. This is one of the reasons we take longer to recover from things we did easily before.
How can you help? Help build and maintain your capillary beds through aerobic exercise.
Regular cardiovascular exercise done minimum 3-4 times, for 30-40 minutes of continuous activity is a good place to start.
- Activate your glutes!
I mentioned above that one of the things that could be happening with your glutes aside from weakness is inhibition, or an inability to activate fully. This can happen for several reasons, but one of common reasons is sitting! Yes, sitting for long periods of time leads to the glute muscle being inactive in a stretched position leading to the nervous nervous system reducing activity to the tissue. Why is this important? This neuromotor inhibition leads to your being unable to fully activate your glute muscles when you go to use them. An analogy would be having 100 workers, and only 50 show up for work. Those 50 can’t maintain the workload so others have to pitch in, in your body it is the muscles in your lower back. There are a couple of ways you can do improve the activation of your glutes. One is through specific exercises done mindfully. Another, and a much quicker way is through doing electro-acupuncture. By placing an acupuncture needle precisely near the nerve to your glute and stimulating it with electric current (this is painless!!) you can in a very quick way restore activity in your glutes.
These three videos show what it looks like when you get your glutes stimulated through electro-acupuncture to increase its capacity.
- Treating Old Injuries
What? Yes, your old injuries. The saying ‘diamonds are forever’ would be better served if it said ‘your injuries are forever’. Any injury, minor and in particular major, leads to alterations in your body’s behaviour. This can be an increase in tension in some tissues, compensatory patterns during movement that develop or activation of nociceptors, our pain fibres. An example of this is ankle sprains. Researched showed that long after the pain went away from an ankle sprain, the alterations in behaviour in your body persisted. In several researches they found reduced pelvic stability and glute functioning on the side of an ankle sprain.
Treating old injuries also is important when dealing with previous fractures or broken bones, surgical scars, or burns. For example; a scar on your stomach can contribute to low back pain. This is because around scars we have a flowering of nociceptors, the pain fibres, that are also silently activated. Silently because you may not sense pain. This leads to signally from the nerve back to its origin on the spinal cord in your lower back. In the example above, an old ankle injury that has altered pelvic muscle function, and when treated can restore pelvic function and more importantly reduce loading on your low back.
Treating old injuries requires an exceptional functional assessor, this can be a physiotherapist, chiropractor or a sports doctor, however it’s important that they are proficient in assessing functionally.
- Check for more serious conditions
Lastly, I would be remise if I didn’t mention to see your doctor or your injury rehab specialist. Not all back pain is benign, some require more specific care and attention. The last thing you want to do is ignore something that can become much more problematic later.
So, there is your top 5 list. Now get moving and start taking the steps to prevent it!