Whether you’re desk bound or a manual worker, lower back pain is a serious hassle. It’s an extremely common complaint we see here at The Alignment Studio, but the truth is it’s often avoidable. So, rather than waiting until it sets in and reaching for the painkillers, try these eight easy ways to prevent lower back pain.
1. Strengthen your core with pilates
Core strength is incredibly important when it comes to avoiding lower back pain. “Think of your core like a corset that surrounds your body. It refers to the deepest layer of muscles underneath your visible abs that attaches to your spine. It provides stability and support to your spine when you are static and when you are moving,” says Melbourne physiotherapist Jane Lau.
“A strong and stable core (imagine a tight corset) provides a good foundation for every movement we make. If your core is weak, your movement becomes less efficient, causing overloading on other parts of your body, which may lead to pain and injury.”
Pilates, with its focus on controlled movements and core stability, is an excellent practice to reduce the likelihood of lower back pain. And improve your flexibility, balance and so much more!
2. Don’t neglect your posture
When it comes to back pain, poor posture is a major culprit. “Poor posture means that our muscles are working harder to keep us upright and balanced,” says Jane. “Over time, this can cause tightness in muscles, and wear and tear on muscles, ligaments and joints, causing pain and injury.”
3. Stand up!
Sitting all day puts a huge amount of strain on the lower back, with many experts likening its negative effects to that of smoking! In fact, sitting places 40% more strain on the spine than standing. So, get up, stretch, and move around as much as possible throughout the day!
Lobby HR for a sit-stand desk, which allows you to regularly change your position. You’ll enjoy a healthier back, and your boss will benefit from a more productive workforce with fewer sick days.
4. Sit properly
Some sitting is unavoidable, so a good ergonomic chair is a must. According to Jane, this should have lumbar support, adjustable height, seat slide and seat tilt. If your chair is not supportive, she suggests rolling a towel and placing at the base of your spine to reduce lower back strain.
And how exactly should you sit? “Your lower back should be in contact with the lumbar support, your back straight, shoulders back and feet flat on the ground, with hips at 90 degrees or more. There should be two-three fingers’ width between the back of the knees and edge of your seat,” advises Jane.
5. Bend your knees
Learning how to lift things correctly is essential to avoid unnecessary back pain and injury. “Engage your core, squat, bend from the hips – not lower back – and push through the hips and knees, keeping your back straight and the object close to your body,” says Jane. If you can’t maintain good lifting technique, it’s a sign the object is too heavy for you!
6. Buy a new bed
Bed sagging in the middle? It’s time to fork out for a new mattress. According to Jane, a bed that’s too soft means the body sags into a poor posture. A good mattress should take the pressure off your shoulders and hips, while allowing you to keep good spinal alignment. (Talk to a member of The Alignment Studio team about sourcing a suitable bed at a discount.)
To keep your lower back happy, Jane suggests a side sleeper should try sleeping with a pillow between the knees, and a back sleeper might benefit from a pillow under the knees.
7. Watch your waistline
Sorry to nag, but carrying around a spare tire puts extra strain on your lower back. It’s probably time to up your exercise and clean up your diet if your weight is creeping into the danger zone.
8. Try dry needling
Dry needling uses ultra-fine needles to painlessly stimulate trigger points, and muscular and connective tissues within the body. It can help increase bloody flow and improve mobility, promote healing, and release muscle tension. It is a useful treatment to nip any lower back issues in the bud before they escalate, and also useful to manage chronic musculoskeletal conditions.
Back pain not an issue? Check out our blog on 8 Ways to Prevent Neck Pain.
With a Doctor of Physiotherapy degree from the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of Science and Human Movement from Penn State, Michelle Labonia is a skilled physiotherapist with a passion for holistic patient care. Particularly interested in back and neck pain and hip and knee injury, she combines her extensive knowledge of the body and expertise in manual therapy, Clinical Pilates and dry needling to relieve pain, rehabilitate and prevent future injuries.