Just let the subject of lower back ache come up in a group and what started out a tidy conversation develops into a free-for-all, with men and women, old and young, fighting to share their woes.
Nine of every 10 of them are their own lower back’s worst enemy. The tenth really needs a physician’s attention. So just in case your number is ten, take this friendly advice. If your lower back hurts all the time, don’t rely on the price of this net to cure it. Go at once to your doctor. If he recommends medical treatment, take it. If he suggests consultation with an orthopedist, obey him. If he merely says, “You need exercise”, be thankful.
Pain in the lower back may indicate problems other than poor posture, lazy muscles or even sacro-iliac sprain. Certain diseases of the abdominal viscera give warning lights with lower back pain. If you’ve ever experienced kidney inflammation, for example, you know it was introduced by lower back pain. Some visceral ailments may be helped by exercise, but that should be your doctor’s decision, not yours. Certain doctors believe that even after sacro-iliac sprain, gentle exercise should be done.
A man repairing a stone wall on his property lifted a huge rock. Suddenly there was a snap and an agonizing pain in his lower back. His doctor diagnosed it as sacro-iliac strain, kept him in bed for a week, then strapped him securely and began putting him through mild exercises. In a few weeks he was his old self – with one notable exception, he has never stopped exercising his back muscles in the ten years since.
All exercises for such backs must be planned to avoid twisting the muscles. They should be done slowly and for a few moments only, both morning and night.
For the other nine of you, here’s how you abuse your lower back. First off, you don’t do a thing to strengthen it. Over and over again when back achers are asked if they do any exercise they reply brightly, “Oh, yes! Every night and morning I bend forward and touch the floor with my hands at least ten times.” This “exercise” strengthens the lower back muscles just about as much as drinking a cup of tea. Never in all my years of teaching have I given it in a back routine. Gravity carries the body forward and there is not sufficient counteracting muscle action to make it worth doing. The best that can be said for it is that it stretches the thigh muscles slightly. But there are far better exercises for even that.
No, you do not exercise your lower back properly. You do not stand properly, either. You stand with your weight on one foot and out juts the pelvic girdle. The pelvic girdle articulates with the sacral vertebrae, right where you hurt.
You stand with knees thrust back, calf muscles tense. Out go the buttocks and in goes the curve of the lower back. All the muscles there must brace themselves to adjust to this unnatural posture. But do you care? No. You just go on using hot water bottles when the ache becomes too severe. Take a tip from a doctor, a specialist in arthritis. He’ll tell you that the constant straining of muscles and ligaments due to hollow backs and rounded shoulders are the fore-runners of many cases of upper and lower back arthritis.
Then you mistreat your feet – a case where distance lends disenchantment. Closely linked roads lie between unhappy feet and the lower back. Visiting aches can travel over them quickly.
Are your arches weak? You’ll regret it in your lower back. Do your shoes pinch? Your lower back can tell you all about it. Are your heels so high that your weight pitches forward or so run over that it cants to the side? Look forward to an ache in your lower back.
You lash at your lower back muscles every time you lift and carry something heavy. There is no more vicious injunction than that oft repeated “Put your back into it” when we are being urged on to some extra task. Put your legs into it, yes. Your shoulders, too. But not those poor over-worked lower back muscles. They have enough work supporting the back and the viscera.
Did it ever occur to you that your bed mattress can fall into bad posture habits? It develops exaggerated curves, too, and they tease your back all the time you are sleeping. Give that mattress some corrective exercise along with your own. That can be done easier and at less cost than providing yourself with a new back.
By the way, have you weighed yourself recently? You’d be surprised how ten extra pounds and three inches around the abdominal region will drag at your lower back muscles. They’re probably weak anyway, for overweight indicates lack of muscle exercise. If you exercised your muscles you’d burn up that excess fat. With it hanging down in from the lower back muscles stretch and stretch till they’re so exhausted they can’t relax.
Do you really want to cure your back aches? Practice the posture we preach. Read the site and do the exercises that apply to your specific daily activities; study yourself to learn what you are doing wrong; then right that wrong. Do the exercises every day.
This first exercise is one of the easiest to do and an excellent one for beginners. It can be done without the slightest strain on even the weakest of lower backs. It can also be done standing. It is more beneficial if done twice a day, even if it is repeated fewer times on each occasion.
Exercise for the Lower Back
1. Lie on your face, arms in comfortable position, legs out straight.
2. Squeeze the buttocks muscles together as tight as possible.
4. Repeat five times. Rest. Do this 10 to 15 times in all.