By Dr. Ronald G. Manoni
What are the high-risk times and events for your lower back? Why can you get into more trouble doing something as simple as picking up a loaf of bread from the trunk of the car, rather than doing something more challenging? What simple steps can you take to avoid injury and pain?
Two critical moments
When it comes to your lower back and injury risk there are two critical times when you need to be especially careful. One is first thing in the morning. Your back is actually swollen at that time, as the discs have extra fluid in them. A careless forward bend or twist first thing in the morning can do substantial damage to your discs or other back structures.
The other critical time is after you have been sitting. In this case, the culprit is something called “creep.” This means that your ligaments and tendons lengthen into the position that you have been in. The ligaments and tendons do not provide protection properly when they have been lengthened by creep. When you first get up from sitting, you are at risk. The longer you have been sitting, the higher the risk. If you sit upright, with good lumbar support, you will have somewhat less risk.
Here are some common events that can contribute to lower back pain.
Scenario #1: You didn’t sleep well; you get up, feel stiff, but ignore it. You sit down in a soft chair to enjoy your morning coffee. You get up and get a sudden sharp stab in the back.
Scenario #2: You get up from sleeping, sit at your laptop and become entranced by a video or article. You end up sitting far longer than you planned. You get up, and can’t completely straighten up.
Scenario #3: You get up from sleeping, drink your coffee, which wakes up your gut, and you go to the bathroom to empty your bowel. You are a bit constipated, and have to strain. When you get up from the toilet, your back spasms.
When you get up, you should do some kind of activity that warms up and “wrings out” the excessive fluids. A short walk, or some simple movements, can make a real difference.
How to avoid injury and pain
Don’t bend over immediately after sitting. The longer you sit and the worse the seat, the more at risk you are. After a long sit, give yourself at least a few seconds of backward bending and/or moving around to reset your spine. Then you can carefully, using your hips rather than your back, bend over to pick up something.
When you sit, don’t slump. Slumping reinforces the risks, makes it more likely for something bad to happen to damage your discs, joints or muscles. So, sit up straight, and keep your back in neutral. This simple action can make a huge difference. Like any habit, this will require you to “Just Do It” for a few weeks.
This article was written by Ronald G. Manoni, DC, CCSP, clinical director at Danbury Chiropractic and Wellness.