Hi there: Have you ever suffered low back pain? If you have you’ll know that this isn’t much fun at all. I mean when you sprain an ankle you can still get around. Maybe a little more slowly but you can still move. Or if you hurt your elbow you can still use the other arm and probably both hands.
But when your back is out all bets are off. Normally our posture dictates how well our core fires, how well we move, our technique while lifting as well as our athleticism. Throw in an episode of low back pain and everything changes. This over-rides our normally optimal posture and causes us to move in altered ways. These compensatory movements are to protect us so we don’t put additional strain on the area.
Recently a colleague showed me a video that illustrates the differences in loading on the low back depending on the position the body is in.
For example the load on the low back is lowest when we are flat on our backs with straight legs. And the load is highest when when we are seated and attempting to lift something. The video by Dr. Ebraheim MD is a little more than 3 minutes but is very informative and uses some great illustrations. Go and have a look.
A few of the ‘take home’ points from this video would be:
* lack of fitness would put you at an increased risk for low back pain
* prolonged sitting, whether it be at school, work or driving, never helps
* smoking puts you at an increased risk
* the worst possible set up is heavy lifting from a seated position
For me this last point really hammered home the purposed of doing ground-based resistance lifting. For example we perform the majority of our weight training workouts on our feet. This includes deadlifts, squats, presses and pulling motions. The video demonstrates very clearly how effective the legs and hips are at taking load, and potential strain, off the spine.
And while I really enjoyed this video I disagreed with one point that was made. Can you guess what it was?
It was at 1 minute 46 seconds of the video. The doctors lists a number of factors which may contribute to pain or degeneration within the lumar spine. One of the factors he includes is heavy lifting. I would disagree with this statement for two reasons.
1. The first is that heavy lifting does not injure the spine. Improper lifting techqnique injures the spine. For myself and for almost all of the people we work with we know that our backs feel the best when we are lifting heavily and using good form.
2. Spinal biomechanist Stuart McGill PhD presented some interesting research at one of the conferences I attended. He showed that the closer you get to world record power lifting weight the more stability there is through the spine.
You can hurt your back with light load or heavy load. It is not so much the loading as it is how you are trying to move the load. The difference becomes that with heavier load most people will compensate more and exceed the capacity of the tissue more than with light load.
Anyways, I’m curious as to your thoughts? What did you think of the video? And when does your low back feel the best and worst?
Chris okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’