Back pain is one of the most common problems that almost every adult faces sooner or later. Pain makes it difficult for us to move normally and deteriorates the quality of life, and at the same time it is one of the main reasons for seeking help from a doctor and being absent from work.
Why does back pain occur in the first place?
Our spine is built very complexly, so the causes of pain are different. Pain occurs due to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, many incorrect movement patterns, incorrect body posture, incorrect lifting of loads, lack of physical activity, obesity, stress and other health problems. All of this has a strong impact on the poor nutrition of the intervertebral discs and premature degenerative changes of the intervertebral discs, which cause a decrease in mobility and pain in various areas of the spine. In addition to the degeneration of the intervertebral discs, muscles, vertebrae, nerves, ligaments and the spinal cord can also be affected.
What are the most common problems associated with back pain?
We encounter back pain at least once in our lives, but we often do not understand the origin of the pain. Most of the time, we suffer from pain in the lumbar or neck region, as this is where the spine is most flexible.
When we talk about pain in the spine, it can be acute pain that appears suddenly and lasts up to 6 weeks, subacute pain that lasts from 6 to 12 weeks, and chronic pain that usually lasts more than 12 weeks. The causes of most acute pain are minor injuries to spinal muscles and ligaments, incorrect posture, non-physiological positions at the workplace, excessive loads, and congenital and acquired abnormalities of the spine. Repetitive improper loading of the spine leads to chronic pain and various injuries.
One of the most common spinal injuries that many people face is a hernia or herniated disc, where the disc becomes bulged due to improper distribution of forces. It is caused by long-term degenerative changes, sudden and repetitive movements and improper lifting of heavy loads. A hernia can cause sciatica and sharp pain along the sciatic nerve. This pain can radiate from the spine down the lower limb all the way to the toes.
Spinal stenosis is also a common problem, in which the spinal canal narrows, which in turn squeezes the nerves. The tightness causes pain in the spine and lower limbs.
Pain in the spine is also caused by idiopathic or functional scoliosis, cauda equina syndrome and other problems. In idiopathic scoliosis, there is no known cause of its occurrence and it occurs already in childhood or in the process of growing up. Functional scoliosis can be acquired because of our lifestyle. This shape of the spine causes instability and increases the possibility of developing other injuries.
How to maintain a healthy spine?
In order for our spine to remain healthy, we must radically change our way of life. We can do a lot by preventing and maintaining a neutral position of the spine during daily tasks, sitting, lifting loads, and by correctly performing exercises that can prevent back pain. Of course, it is very important to reduce sitting time and choose an active lifestyle.
In modern times, we spend a lot of time sitting around. We sit at work, at home, in the car and during some leisure activities. Many times our posture while sitting is also not the most optimal, as we sit with a closed posture, where the neck and shoulders are pushed forward. Many muscle imbalances occur due to prolonged sitting. While the hip flexors and horizontal shoulder flexors are in a shortened position, the scapula retractors, trunk extensors, and hip extensors are in a lengthened position. For this reason, many lower back pains, incorrect posture and other problems appear.
Therefore, it is recommended to take a break several times a day during prolonged sitting, take a walk, and do some kind of stretching exercise for shortened or strengthening exercises for lengthened muscles. This prevents incorrect posture and reduces the risk of injury.
If our workplace is predominantly sedentary, it is recommended to take a 10-20 second break every 50 minutes to walk around. At least twice during the working day, it is good to take an active break, where we perform some stretching and strengthening exercises.
During daily tasks, we often bend over and lift loads incorrectly. Instead of squatting with a straight spine and lifting the load with the help of bent legs and hips, we squat with a bent spine and lift the load with the help of the spine. Thus, we do more harm than good to our spine, which in the long run can lead to lower back pain and degenerative changes in the intervertebral discs. Therefore, let's keep in mind that the neutral position of the spine is crucial when lifting loads, because only in this way can we lift fairly large and heavy loads without the risk of damaging the spine. In all of this, it is important to keep the load as close to the body as possible, because only in this way will our spine suffer the least amount of effort.
What is the correct posture of the spine?
Correct posture of the spine or the neutral position of the spine means that the spine is tilted forward in the neck and lumbar region (lordosis), and backward in the thoracic and sacral region (kyphosis) and has the shape of a double letter S. The head is always in an extension of the trunk, the feet are parallel and facing forward, the weight is evenly distributed on both legs, the shoulders are relaxed, and the pelvis is in a neutral position.
If the pelvis is tilted too far forward, the lumbar lordosis increases, while when the pelvis is tilted back, the lumbar curve is evened out. Muscle imbalances, which are the result of a modern lifestyle, are often responsible for the incorrect position of the pelvis.
For better control of good posture, we can help ourselves by standing against a wall or looking at ourselves in the mirror from the side and from the front.
What is important when doing back exercises?
The most important thing is the correct execution of exercises for the spine, because only such exercises can lead to a healthy and pain-free spine in combination with other factors. When exercising, it is always necessary to strengthen the right muscles, both the external back and abdominal muscles as well as the deep internal muscles (multifidus, deep abdominal muscle, pelvic floor muscles), which contribute to the stabilization of the spine and pelvis.
For complete beginners, strengthening the deep muscles will cause quite a few problems at the beginning, since it is necessary to first learn the correct activation of the deep abdominal muscles and the muscles of the pelvic floor. Only when they have mastered the basic activation exercises can they continue with more difficult exercises in different positions. It is important not to hold your breath during the exercises, but to breathe normally and relaxed at all times.
Prevention for a life without back pain
In the following, we have prepared some basic exercises for you, including strengthening the deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles, which you can perform at home.
Lie on your back, bend your legs, keep your pelvis in a neutral position (do not press your lower back into the floor).
EXECUTION OF THE EXERCISE:
We breathe in and with the exhalation gently pull the lower part of the abdomen inwards towards the spine. In doing so, make sure that you do not squeeze your stomach in such a way that it takes your breath away, but rather pull your stomach inward just enough so that it moves away from the waistband of your pants. We also add compression of the pelvic floor muscles. Hold the pressure for up to 10 seconds while breathing normally.
Lie on your back, your arms are next to your body, your legs are bent, your pelvis is in a neutral position (there is space for the palm of the hand between the lumbar region and the floor).
EXECUTION OF THE EXERCISE:
Inhale and slowly begin to tense the deep abdominal muscle and pelvic floor muscles. At the same time, slowly begin to raise the outstretched arms up and back behind the head, and then return them back to the base. Breathe calmly and do not hold your breath. Tense the deep abdominal muscle just enough so that the belly moves slightly from the waist of the pants. Repeat the exercise 10 times.
lie on your back, legs are bent, hands are next to the body, the pelvis is in a neutral position.
EXECUTION OF THE EXERCISE:
First, place your hand on the opposite leg, inhale, and with exhalation push the hand into the bent raised leg on the opposite side. Gently activate the deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles. Hold the contraction for about 10 seconds and then repeat the same exercise on the other side.
lie on your side with support on your forearms, knees and hips are slightly bent. The upper hand can rest on the hips. The elbow is under the shoulder, the feet are together, and the side of the torso is in an aligned position (the navel is in line with the sternum).
EXECUTION OF THE EXERCISE:
Tense the deep abdominal muscle and squeeze the muscles of the pelvic floor and move the upper knee away from the lower one and then back to the starting position. Be careful not to throw up the pelvis when performing the exercise. Repeat the exercise 12 times on one side and 12 times on the other side.
Get into position on all fours. The palms are under the shoulders and the knees are under the hips. The spine is in a neutral position and the head is in an extension of the trunk.
EXECUTION OF THE EXERCISE:
First, tense the deep abdominal muscle and the muscles of the pelvic floor and simultaneously raise the opposite outstretched arm and leg from the floor. Hold the position for a few seconds and then lower the limbs back to the starting position. Repeat the exercise 12 times on one side and 12 times on the other.
Be careful not to lift your limbs too high during the exercise, as this can disrupt your correct posture and increase the lumbar curve.
The spine is our greatest wealth, so don't wait for tomorrow and take the first step towards a healthy spine today!
With our programs for a healthy spine, together with top-quality physiotherapy treatment and the knowledge of physiotherapists, you will ease or eliminate already existing pain in the spine, and at the same time you will learn how to properly perform exercises and stabilize the spine.
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