Most lower back pain is the result of musculoskeletal problems. The pain and discomfort you are feeling may be the result of sprains or strains in the muscles, ligaments, or joints within or those that support the lower back. Of course, there are also systemic causes of lower back pain that require medical care. Whichever the case, a visit with your local physiotherapist will help set you on the right path towards recovery. But that’s not the point of today’s article. Instead, we’re here to address common daily (or weekly, etc.) activities that may be contributing to your musculoskeletal lower back problems so that you can take some practical steps to easing your pain and discomfort, which will complement your physiotherapy regime.
5 Common Activities That May Be Causing You Unnecessary Lower Back Pain
There are two ways that driving causes lower back pain. For one, if you exhibit poor posture while operating a vehicle you’re setting yourself up for chronic lower back pain. Moving forward, practice optimal driving ergonomics, which includes the following:
- Sit with your knees level with your hips.
- Sit at a comfortable distance from the steering wheel, so that you don’t have to reach the steering wheel without stretching your arms.
- Sit so that your feet can comfortably push the accelerator, brake, and clutch without your back leaving the seat.
- Stop regularly and get out of the vehicle on road trips lasting longer than two hours.
- Install a lumber support system (if the vehicle’s driver side does not have one).
There’s another reason why driving contributes to lower back pain – stress. Anxiety can drastically increase muscle tension, which in turn increases pain in the lower back (among other places). Since driving is one of the leading causes of daily stress, the following steps can be taken to minimize anxiety (and the low back pain) on the road:
- Make a conscious effort to remain calm by being aware of and managing your feelings while driving.
- Take the road less travelled, avoiding high traffic routes. You may have to leave earlier, but it’s worth it.
- Allow yourself more time to get to your destination.
- Don’t be competitive. Allow others to merge, pass, and leave plenty of room between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.
- Consider another form of transportation.
This most common of daily activities is one of the most common precursors to lower back pain and discomfort. Whether at the office, in your local cafe, or at home on the sofa, there’s a good chance that you’re sitting in a manner that’s bad for your back.
Sedentary office life is the biggest culprit, as it can have you sitting for 40 hours per week. Ergonomic office chairs only cut it for so long, so you may consider installing (or asking for) a standing desk if you truly are experiencing persistent back pain. A more viable alternative for many, is an exercise ball which you can swap your ergonomic chair for sporadically throughout the day.
It’s one thing to focus on better sitting in the office, but you should carry over the practice during out of office hours too. This includes when your plugging away on your laptop at home, or when firing up Netflix for a binge watching marathon into the wee hours of the night. How exactly should you do so, while not sitting like a robot on your $3500 Restoration Hardware distressed leather comfy space? By rotating “normal” seating with the following positions:
- Lay (floor or sofa) on your abdomen with your elbows under your shoulders with your neck outstretched and face facing the screen.
- Sit on the floor in front of the couch (or wall) with your gluteus maximus (butt) as close to the edge of the couch (or wall) as comfortably possible, ensuring that your glutes and spine are actually touching the front of the couch (or wall). Sit up tall, with your legs stretch out in front of you, facing the TV. You can also take this position when working on your laptop at home, with your laptop placed comfortably on your lap at a close enough distance from your elbows so that you don’t stretch to reach the keyboard.
- Lay (floor or sofa) on your side in a straight line, placing your hand under your ear while ensuring that your neck is outstretched with your face facing the screen. Rest the knee that is on top over the bottom as this will assist in stabilizing your hip and will thus release the lower back.
Be mindful of how you sit through the rest of your day, including when out to eat, when riding public transit, and so forth. Mindfulness of your seated posture will go a long way in keeping you lower back pain free.
Common household (interior and exterior) chores can cause you significant lower back pain and discomfort. You may practice great form in the gym and even when playing sports, but when it comes to scrubbing the bathtub, weeding the lawn, or picking up toys, you may not afford your body the same care and thus place your lower back in peril. Always remember to bend at the knee, and do the following when doing chores on the down low:
- Spread your feet apart and stand as close as possible to the object you are cleaning, pulling, or lifting, and then bend at the knees, not the waist.
- Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift an object up, lower it down, and when scrubbing or wiping.
- Hold the object as close to your body as you can when lifting or lowering.
- As you stand up with an object, do not bend forward.
- Avoid twisting your back when you bend to reach, lift, pull or carry an object.
Again, be mindful when doing any chores around the home or yard in order to take another big leap towards being lower back pain free. And if pain persists, consider a cleaning service (i.e. the kids).
Say what? No, we’re not taking about eating a meal so heavy that lifting the fork can cause strain on your lower back (although that sounds interesting). Foods and beverages can contribute to lower back pain because of inflammatory properties. Common inflammatory foods lower back pain sufferers may consider cutting from their diet include (but are not exclusive to) the following:
- Sugary foods and drinks
- Egg yolk
- Trans fats
- Refined carbohydrates and grains
- Red meat
- Most processed foods
5. Using Your Bed for More Than Sleep
No, we’re not suggesting you stop doing that. Instead, we’re referring to other non-sleeping bedtime activities, including reading and tapping away on your tablet or smartphone. When you do so, you are inclined to sit in a semi-reclined position with your back propped against a pillow or the headboard, both of which will put additional stress on your lower back muscles. Yes, you can sit in bed upright with your glutes and spine pressed to the headboard, legs outstretched in front of you as you read or navigate your favorite website or social network, but you will invariably revert back to a poor reclined position as you get sleepy. If you suffer from lower back pain, leave the books and online gadgets in the living room and use the bed for sleeping, and the other thing (but you know, practice good form there too).
Remember, there is no better way to alleviate musculoskeletal (non systemic) lower back pain than by visiting a physiotherapy clinic that offers professional chiropractic services. As one of the top reasons to see a chiropractor, lower back pain can be alleviated by having a reputable chiropractor work your final facet joints and prescribe supplementary treatments including trigger point massage therapy in addition to acupuncture. Contact Absolute PhysioCare, serving Burnaby, Coquitlam and Greater Vancouver, to learn more.