Can I Avoid Injury to My Low Back??
80 percent of people will experience low back pain at some time in their lives that is serious enough that they will seek professional help. Are there any particular occasions when people should be especially careful to protect their back?
Two Critical Times
The first instance is when we first get up in the morning. We are actually measurably taller when we arise from sleep, due to our discs having taken on extra fluid during the night. If we bend or twist quickly after we’ve just gotten out of bed, we run the risk of hurting our spine.
The second occasion is after a prolonged period of sitting — perhaps after a long car drive or airplane flight. The reason we’re more vulnerable at these times differs, however, from the risk we have after sleep. The many ligaments and tendons in our back lengthen as our back is “stretched,” due to being seated — think of how your shirt tail is pulled out when you bend forward to pick something up from the floor. The ligaments and tendons similarly stretch slightly when a person is seated for a long period. This temporary stretching is called “creep.” Because of this, they don’t provide the same support and protection to your spine as they normally would if they were their normal length.
Who is at Risk?
If you have a healthy back, none of this may matter. But if you have a vulnerable back — perhaps due to aging or previous injury — it all matters.
What is the Take Home Message?
Don’t bend over immediately after sitting. The longer you sit, the more you’re at risk. Whenever you’re driving or on an airplane, take advantage of opportunities to walk and gently stretch. Aim for stopping the car and taking a break every 90 minutes, likewise get up and walk around when it is safe to do so in an airplane.
Sit up straight. Grandma was right here. Slouching causes greater creep in the ligaments and tendons in your back. Sitting upright creates less of a strain.
Go slow after you wake up. Do some gentle stretches before you get out of bed.
Yours for Better Health,
Jon Mills, DC