Weekly musings, 6/17/18: backs and standing up

I was recently watching someone whose back was acting up move. She looked uncomfortable transitioning from sitting to standing, and it took a few steps for her walking gait to even out. She’s athletic, and didn’t seem overly concerned about- it was obvious she saw it as a nuisance, not a permanent situation.

Back pain happens. Professional organizations estimate that up to 80% of the population will have back pain at some point in their lives. Usually it’s temporary, like a cold, and disappears quietly without fanfare. If you wake up with a back ache, there are a few things you can do to try and ease the discomfort during the healing process.

Move. Walking usually helps. So does gentle mobility work in other places. (I usually stay away from the spine for the first few days, and then introduce easy movement in the parts of the spine that aren’t painful).

If it hurts to do a certain movement, like standing up out of a chair, see if you can figure out a way to load your skeleton a little bit differently. Instead of standing with your feet parallel, for instance, try staggering your feet a little bit. You can also shift your perspective and see if you can feel your abdominals and your legs supporting you when you transition. This tends to help.

Make sure you breathe. Long exhales occasionally will help calm the nervous system down and change the position of your thoracic spine. Inhaling into different places can change how you are loading the skeleton.

Do something relaxing. Massage, acupuncture, floating… Anything that you enjoy that takes your mind off of the discomfort can be beneficial. 

Give it time to heal. Your body is intelligent. If you move in a way that hurts, don’t repeatedly move in that way. And when you are healed, if you aren’t already doing some form of general exercise, either aerobic exercise or strength training, consider implementing a consistent exercise program. While nothing is a guarantee against low back pain, research does show that aerobic and resistance training improve outcomes in people with chronic low back pain that doesn’t appear to have a specific cause.*