Hands up who’s ever had back pain?! *Everybody raises their hand*
Back pain is one of the most common issues that we as trainers, our friends as physios, and even doctors come across as a day-to-day complaint.
Most things that cause a dull ache in your body are a result of pressure. Whether that’s swelling around an injury, a punch in the arm, or your muscles pulling your body in funky directions it’d rather not be in.
We’re talking about that last part, sucks if you’re injured or your friends are annoying.
What The Funk?
It’s not surprising that back pain is one of the most common complaints, given that your posture affects you during literally every moment of your life.
If you have good posture, it affects you with good things like preventing injury and efficient movements.
If you have bad posture, it affects you by causing pain potentially anywhere and even affecting your digestion and immune system. (That’s super deep stuff, well talk about that some other time.)
Your posture is dictated by your muscles, and how tight/weak they are relative to one another.
Your body is like a suspension bridge. Your bones are those huge metal girders and your ligaments are the bolts holding them together. On their own, you’d be a rag doll. Like a suspension bridge without cables, without muscles you’d just collapse.
But with muscles, you can control how you stand, and move.
If you tighten your biceps, you bend your elbow. If you tighten your quadriceps, you extend your knee. If you tighten your glutes, your milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.
When you’re standing up, or sitting down, or stationary in any way; your muscles are in a delicate balance of tension.
If everything is balanced well, you stand up straight, you sit tall, you look profound.
If some things are a little out of balance, you look a little off kilter.
When your chest is too tight while your upper back is weak; you get hunched, rounded shoulders.
When your hip flexors and lower back are too tight while your glutes and abs are weak; you stick your butt out like a duck.
These changes in posture and unwanted tightnesses create referred pain similar to trigger points. Plus is you’ve got duck butt and your lower back is arched more than it should be, you can see how that pressure is going to be building up to cause an issue.
Let’s Fix It
The first thing you need to do to correct your posture issues is to be aware of it. Get somebody to take a picture of you from the front, side, and back, and see if you can see where things might not quite be lining up. You can even just do this looking in the mirror.
Then, think about it, and change it. You can stretch out the muscles that are tight and specifically strengthen the ones that are weak but if you actively hold the correct posture throughout your day, it will start to shift back.
Just like if you’re sitting next to your little sister and poke her in the arm but just keep your finger there, eventually she’ll move. And probably go moan to mum but whatever.
Point is, if you hold your body the way it should be held, those muscles will start too loosen out and strengthen up the same way they did to get you in this situation in the first place. For example, sitting at a desk or in a car with your shoulders hunched forward over the keyboard or steering wheel. Eventually you sat that way for so long you got stuck.
Try these two simple shifts when you’re out and about:
- When you realise your shoulders are hunched over: pull them back and push your chest out tall and proud. It will feel unnatural at first, and that’s because you’re used to an unnatural position now. You’ll get used to it.
- When you notice you’ve got duck butt, pull your hips up to stand nice and tall.
Try these both in the mirror so it makes sense.
And you can start doing this anywhere. Standing in the queue at the shop, waiting at a bus stop, at your desk or driving your car.
Now you can work on being fitter and healthier anywhere!