Low Back Syndrome

The term Low Back Syndrome is used to encompass the wide variety of problems that occur at the junction of the lowest part of our flexible spine to the rigid pelvic area. This description of the lumbosacral spine illustrates why so many problems occur here. The pelvis, being the largest bone in the body, is relatively fixed. The hip joints resists the pelvis’ ability to move freely. This becomes more pronounced as we age and hip movement becomes more limited. Motion at this junction must come from the spine and spinal motion comes from movement at the discs. The high stress and movement requirements of this area are sizable. We can only imagine the impact that damage to this area has on quality of life and economic issues.

The positive influences on our lower spine would have to start with weight. Sixty percent of our body weight is above our lumbar spine. Since sitting or standing forces the spine to carry the weight of the upper body, only lying down removes the weight bearing forces from the spine. Carrying less body weight lessens the forces on our lower spine in both the standing and sitting positions. Standing or sitting upright removes harmful shear stress on the lower spine and promotes a more healthy compression stress. In other words, good standing or sitting posture is important for a healthy back. Lifting with the legs instead of the spine also prevents excessive stress on the spine by allowing our backs to remain upright. Flexibility of the lumbar spine and hips more evenly distributes spinal stress caused by such activities as getting out of a car and picking up objects from the floor. Strong abdominal muscles pushing inward on our abdominal contents force the spine into a straighter position and, doing so, eases lower back stress.

Negative factors in promoting low back pain again start with body weight. Not only does carrying excessive weight increase forces on the spine but it interferes with exercise. Stretching is limited by the size of the abdomen and thighs. Overweight people tend to seek out mostly sedentary employment. Since few office chairs or truck seats have proper back support, their spines are not maintained in relatively straight posture. Sitting in a less than upright position increases stress on the disc spaces, hastening the aging process and increasing the risk of disc rupture. Jobs requiring repetitious lifting, bending, stooping or squatting also accelerate the deterioration.

Given the assumption that a straight back with good flexibility, low body weight and strong trunk muscles, it is easy to see that many back problems can be avoided. Start with weight reduction and exercises aimed at increasing muscle strength around the spine. Remember that flexibility is also important as well as the need to be free to move and change position often. Limit lifting to occasional small weights, using the legs as much as possible. Sit in chairs that are straight backed or use a portable lumbar support that will fit in any chair or automobile seat.

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