Science would like us to believe that if we can't see something, then it doesn't exist.
We are all familiar with the word stress and know what it feels like, yet we cannot see it, so how can stress be a cause for lower back pain? Back pain is very common in the general population, and most back pain is not due to any serious disease. Most back pain, in my experience, is caused by stress.
Stress is best described as a set of external forces that cause a negative set of physical and emotionally driven reactions to take place within the body's autonomic nervous system. When we perceive a high level threat or we experience continuous low level threats on a daily basis, we automatically move into some degree of a fight or flight response. This happens even if the threat is a false alarm because we do not have time to react and cancel the automatic response our body makes to the unwanted invasion of stress.
The psoas muscle
Our brain and central nervous system quickly fires a range of signals off, and one of these signals travels down the length of the spine and engages the psoas muscle. The job of the psoas muscle is to contract and bring us into the foetal position in times of sudden danger or shock. This done to help protect our vital organs.
The psoas muscle is the only muscle in the body that is biarticular. In other words, iit is connected to and moves two bones. One of these bones is the femur or top leg bone and the other most important connect is at L1 on the lower spine. The muscle travels from the base of the spine down through the glutes (bum) muscles, and connects to the top of the leg.
This muscle is very powerful and tends to be very good at shortening and tightening up but very bad at releasing and letting go. Thus, it is very easy to see how we can develop a tight and immobile lower back from the daily ignition of the psoas muscle as a result of the stressful situations we encounter on a daily basis.
When your back is tight, stiff and sore it can lead to reduced levels of circulation and this in turn can have a negative effect on other areas as well as organ functions in the body if left untreated over time.
So, here are 9 pointers to help you keep your back fit and pain free
- Consider your work-life balance as most back pain is due to stress and increased muscle tension.
- Always warm up properly before you exercise
- Walking, swimming and cycling are all good for you and good for your back.
- Low chairs and couches for prolonged periods of time can force you to adapt poor posture.
- When sleeping have a firm mattress and one pillow which gives full support to your neck.
- When driving you should adjust the seat so that you have good support for your lower back.
- When at work, adjust your chair to the correct height. Get up regularly to stretch and move.
- Focus on tightening your core and keeping your back straight when lifting or handling heavy loads and keep the load close to you.
- Do not get too anxious if you get a pain in your lower back. Try to relax and breath in a gentle controlled manor. Keep on the move as much as possible and avoid sitting for long periods.
Though many people suffer from back pain, with the right tools anybody can take care of their back properly. Keep the above back care tips in mind as you go through your day to day and you can help give yourself a better, pain free back.