Suffering through a bout of lower back pain? Join the rather sizeable club. According to the American Spinal Decompression Association (ASDA), about 80% of us will experience lower back pain at some point in our lives – and up to 30% of us are dealing with it at any given time.
But why is this?
It's largely due to the fact that we use this part of our bodies to execute most movements, or to transfer force from our lower body to our upper body and vice versa. The pelvis and rib cage are rigid structures which don't move much. And that means that the lower back does most of the work when it comes to bending forward or backward and rotating.
A common scenario is people injuring themselves while doing fairly mundane tasks, often as a result of exhausting muscles doing activities they aren't used to. For instance, if you've fatigued your back muscles by helping a friend move house, dancing for hours at a wedding, gardening for a full day or doing some sort of weekend warrior activity, these tired muscles may be more vulnerable to injury – even just by picking something up off the floor or putting on your shoes.
If we attempt to activate muscles without warming up appropriately, they don't recruit well. In fact, first thing in the morning is one of the most vulnerable times when it comes to mundane activities causing injury.
That's why good muscle control is vital.
There's plenty of research to show that core stabilisation exercises help to prevent lower back pain. Strength training for this area is important to achieve the appropriate balance between stiffness and movement. The right amount of muscle recruitment at the right time for any given task is our best chance to minimise the risk of injury.
Here are a few easy activities that can help to keep lower back pain at bay:
Manu Wakely is an osteopath and a personal trainer at Elixr.