Low back pain is an ailment that plagues much of the population, and dentists certainly aren’t immune to it. In fact, dentists typically suffer more than most because of the nature of their everyday activities and not utilizing correct sitting posture. After spending most of the day leaning over patients, it’s no wonder why they experience postural issues and chronic lower back pain.
The problem is that, more times than not, the symptoms for lower back pain are treated rather than really getting to the root of the problem.
In reality, we must look above and below the lower back to solve this issue. I’ll explain . . . To simplify, our body is a stack of joints, and each joint has a function to either provide mobility or stability with regard to overall bodily movement. When the joints are functioning properly and doing their job, the result is efficient movement and a healthy body. But, when a joint isn’t performing its function, another joint will compensate to pick up the slack for the underperforming joint. These compensation patterns occur above and/or below the joint that isn’t doing its job. In almost every case, this leads to pain or injury in the compensating joint(s).
So, when it comes to relieving lower back pain, the problem is that most people only focus on the lower back instead of addressing the surrounding parts of the body, which are likely the main cause for the problem. I compare this hearing your smoke alarm going off and pulling out the batteries. Sure, you’ve stopped the loud, annoying noise, but you still haven’t put out the fire.
The real solution is to look at the joints above and below the lumbar spine (low back) to find relief. When it comes to joint function, the lumbar spine is designed for stability. The lumbar spine is comprised of 5 vertebrae that are significantly bigger than the others in the vertebral column. These vertebrae are NOT built for flexing, extending, or rotating. Any sort of core training that you perform should be focused on stabilization instead of movement. On the other hand, the thoracic spine and hips are designed for mobility. The 12 vertebrae of the thoracic spine, located above the lumbar spine, attach to the rib cage and are smaller and are capable of more movement. The ball and socket of the hip joint is located below the lumbar spine and has a great capacity for multi-planer movement. When the hips and thoracic spine don’t move well, the lumbar spine compensates and moves instead, which leads to pain and/or injury.
This may sound like an oversimplification because there are all sorts of remedies out there, but the proof’s in the pudding. Improve mobility in the hips and thoracic spine, while performing core strength training to stabilize the lumbar spine, and you’ll have a healthier, pain-free back. So, if you’re looking to relieve lower back pain, get your attention off the lower back and place it on the surrounding areas.
I hope you enjoyed this article. If you want information on back pain exercises and similar topics, you can visit my blog at The Athletes Insider.
Your Strength and Conditioning Coach,
Brian Utley, CSCS, PES