What causes back pain?
We’ve all had some issues with back pain or pain in the joints at some point in our lives, a fact which seems to become more of an issue as we get older.
Typically in normal cases the problem is joints impinging on each other in normal movements. Humans are unfortunately perfectly imperfect, we have amazing biology and biomechanics, but such as complex system of muscles will never stay perfect and requires constant maintenance. Someone who sits down for most of the day is more likely to have issues with their lower back than someone more active. Similarly they will also have issues with posture and shoulder mobility.
We are focusing on back pain today- take any person you like and the trained eye can probably spot postural deviations that are pre cursors to some sort of discomfort, the hips are hard to keep happy in an active person- let alone someone who doesn’t move. Everything has a knock on effect to the next joint or muscle. If the hips are not right then that means the abdominal muscles and probably the lower back musculature are also strained.
Enter the “joint by joint approach”
Devised by Gray Cook, This system gives each joint in the body a designation of its requirment based on the roles the musces around it play.
It looks like this (don’t worry if it looks difficult to understand):
Lumbar (bottom) spine: Stability
Thoracic (middle) spine: mobility
One thing that may jump out at you- particualrly if you’re an avid stretcher, is that the lumbar spine should not be mobile, all of those lower back stretches you do to alleviate back pain are pointless! Instead look at the joints that surround it and the answer becomes clear- if your back is in pain it is because it is trying to compensate for an immobile hip joint, you sort that joint out first and the Lumbar spine will be happier.
The same applies to the knee- problems arise at the ankle and hip joint and as a result the hip joint will suffer. If I was to place a rope around your finger and pull you would complain that the pain sources from your finger, but the cause is me pulling on it, the same applies to joints.
If you suffer from lower back pain, check out a ‘hip flexor stretch’. Another one is squatting down as low as you can (don’t worry if your feet come off the floor) and holding that for 3 sets of 30 seconds. The best way to keep back pain at bay is to undertake a methodical strength training program that encomopassess all joints moving through their range of motion on a regular basis.