Surefire Ways to Irritate your Back

New year, new back?

Probably not. You’ll have to start writing “2020” on all of your paperwork now, but other than adjusting to a new decade, everything else will likely feel the same.

Including your aching back. We’ve written before about ways to ease chronic back pain by stretching, especially addressing the shocking number of people with back pain in America – 80%.

Once your back hurts, you stop thinking about what you can do to prevent it from hurting and focus only on what you can do to make it hurt less now.

Today, in light of the new year, we’re going to talk about common behaviors that are sure to cause tension, inflammation, dull throbbing pain, aches, tightness, and other musculoskeletal issues. 

Let’s take a moment to take a look at how the back is structured…

Vertebra by Vertebra 

The upper and middle back consist of 12 vertebrae, which are all connected to your ribcage. Each vertebra is separated by a disc, which is designed to absorb shock as you move. Muscles and ligaments keep the discs and vertebrae connected. 

Because the upper and middle back is so well protected, this section of the back isn’t the one causing people the most trouble.

It’s the lower back.

Called the lumbar vertebrae, there are 5 irregular shaped vertebrae which connect to the upper and middle back, and to the sacral and coccygeal regions with their vertebrae (the tailbone area of the back.)

The lower back is the most commonly irritated part of the back, and there are quite a few behavioral adjustments we can consider to treat the lower back more kindly.

Adjustment #1

Stand up.

Bend over, come back up.

Reach high, then to the left, then to the right. 

Don’t sit down again. Take a walk. Barefoot, if you can. 

You see, moving helps circulate blood through the discs between your vertebrae. When you sit or you’re idle, you’re preventing fluid from circulating through the discs, and thus they don’t receive any nutrition. So sitting, lying down, or standing still are not great for your back.

Worst of all is sitting and leaning forward. This position locks your pelvis and puts pressure on the section of the spine where the discs are located. 

You want to relieve pressure on the discs of your spine.

Sit up straight, but whenever possible, get moving.

Adjustment #2

When previously active people try to get back into exercising, they often overdo it by trying to accomplish what their fitter former selves could have done.

Here’s a tip: if you’re trying to get back into exercising, especially if you’re concerned about your back due to excessive sedentary activities or previous injuries, focus on the obliques.

The obliques are the set of abdominal muscles on your sides. Try exercising the obliques through the use of an exercise ball.

Do sit ups on the ball, sit on it instead of your chair at work, at home, whenever you can.

Ease your way back into working out by starting at the obliques.

Adjustment #3

Engage more in your daily tasks.

The reason so many back injuries occur, and so much long term damage is done, from simple household chores, like taking out the trash or folding laundry, is that people aren’t paying attention.

Bending the wrong way – without engaging your core – can twist and irritate your back as much as if you’d thrown it out lifting something heavy.

Be present whether you’re standing, sitting, lounging, washing dishes, or picking a sock up off the floor.

Adjustment #4

Eat well.

This may come as a surprise, but every system in your body is connected to every other system. So when you eat junk food, spicy food, fast food, and other meals devoid of nutrients, you’re adding stress to your nervous system.

But if you’re eating well – lots of fruits and vegetables – then your digestive system is running as it should and the discomfort you experience in your lower back will decrease as a result.

Irritated bowels and irritated backs are tandem aches, often times.

Watch out for your back – a herniated disc is a much bigger problem to contend with than a temporary ache.

Stand up, work your obliques, engage thoughtfully in the things you’re doing, and eat well.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.