Hi, I'm Dr. Molly with Your Goals Physical Therapy. I spent a lot of my time helping people recover from back injuries, either from an injury that happened just the other day, or maybe it's been problems that they've had for a very long time. And there are a few similar parts of many people’s stories. Or another way of saying that is there are things that they're doing throughout their day, that adds stress to their back. These actions are things they have done for years and are not even thinking about. And honestly, they’re not even thinking about them because ultimately during the activity, it doesn't normally hurt.
That’s right, it doesn't normally hurt their back while they're doing these things. And so they don't realize that they're stressing their back out until eventually their back gets so tired and overused that these motions start to cause a lot of pain. Now for some people they have been dealing with some sort of back pain for years.
I wanted to talk about just three things that you are doing every day without thinking about it that’s adding extra stress to your back.
The first thing is brushing your teeth. I know how brushing your teeth is a problem for your back? Well, when you stand at your sink, which is typically, hip height or lower, you have to bend really far over and people tend to flex at their lower back. (Versus their hips) So your trunk is just hanging out past your feet to brush your teeth. And if you're following your dentist recommendations, it's two or three minutes of holding this bent forward position. After a while, that adds stress to your back because those little back muscles are having to hold your whole body up.
The second thing is sitting on your couch. Now I know that your couch is perfectly comfortable. I'm not trying to insult your couch. The unfortunate truth is that, for most people, when they sit on their couch, their knees end up being above their hips. So if you're looking at them sideways, their knees are above their hip and that causes your back to go around.
And then if you have a couch, like the one I have, which has a headrest which pushes your head forward, this makes your whole back (spine) round. Well, that might not sound dangerous but all the muscles in your low back are actually designed to have a spine that doesn't curve outward. It's supposed to curve inward. This is what I mean.
At this spine reversal to the fact we all sit hunched forward. That adds to stretching all of those little muscles in your lower back. That prolonged stretch adds stress little by little day in and day out.
Just think about having to hold a stretch in your hamstrings for 1-2 minutes. That can be uncomfortable enough let alone having to hold that position for a day. Or every time you sit and watch a movie for two hours on your couch.
But that is exactly what we ask our backs to do all day every day. We ask our lower back to stay in it’s most stretched position for hours each day.
The third thing that people do that adds stress to their lower back without thinking about it, is picking things up off the floor.
So when I pick something up off the floor, especially if it's one of my kids' toys. I’m just going to bend over and pick it up. And did you see how much flexibility that took out of my back?
That is something that adds to stress at your back. Because again, just like I was saying about the couch, when you're flexed forward, you're stretching out all of these little muscles. Then I'm asking these little back muscles to pick things up. Even if they're light items, these little muscles are still having to pick my whole torso up along with the item from the floor. You do that enough times in a day, week or year and eventually those little muscles get super tired and spasm on you. And that's how most people end up with the first round of their back problems. This is where you end up with that huge muscle spasm that just grabs you and sends you to your doctor for muscle relaxers.
This is what I help people, correct. I help people figure out ways to move inside their environment so that they're not adding undue stress to their low back. I help them figure out how to strengthen their abdominal and hip muscles, which are what supports your low back so that you can then move in a safer manner for your lower back.
Your abdominal muscles and your hip muscles are the support system for your back. Everybody wants to have strong back muscles. But really those muscles are not designed to be strong in that way. They're designed to be stable or to help stabilize your lower back. Your stomach muscles and your hip muscles are the ones that are supposed to be helping you move your upper body and lower body throughout space. They are the muscles that help you pick things up and lean over to brush your teeth. Those activities are supposed to be done with hip and abdominal muscles.
And just because of the way that society goes, we sit so much, our abdominal muscles and our hip muscles don't know how to function properly anymore. And so again, that's what I help people navigate. How do you unravel all of those movement patterns and create new movement patterns that reduce the stress on your back instead of adding stress.
If you have any questions about your specific situation, maybe your back has been a problem for years, or it's just now starting to get aggravated, then simply email me.
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WE HELP ACTIVE ADULTS OVERCOME THEIR ACHES AND PAINS TO GET THEM BACK TO THEIR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITHOUT MEDICATION, INJECTIONS OR SURGERIES.
Dr. Molly McDonald