To my surprise, last week my 3 year old son told me his back was hurting. I told him that he had to lay off the trampoline in the backyard. It didn’t shock me that 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives and most of it has nothing to do with extracurricular activities. As the owner of several Physical Therapy practices, we are seeing an increase in the incidence of back pain across the board.
I sat down with my Head Physical Therapist last Friday and we came up with several reasons why Americans are experiencing more back pain. First, Americans are spending more and more time in front of the computer for business and personal use. Even more important is the growing use of laptops and tablet computers.
These often put users in compromising anatomical positions. Second, lack of physical activity is causing increased weight gain, tighter joints and ligaments, and deconditioned muscles.
Here are several strategies that our Physical Therapists use to help our patients with back pain.
1) Proper Posture - We live in a society where our devices adjust to our position, but this is not always a good thing. Here is a good example: Next time you get into your car. Sit up straight with your spine erect and your chin tucked in so you get at least three rolls in your neck. Now you need to adjust your seat position and rear view mirror to accommodate this position. This should be the last time you change your seat or mirror position. If you can’t see the speedometer or what is in your rear-view mirror then adjust yourself, not your car. Apply these proper body mechanics to your work station, home office, etc…
2) Stretching Program - When our muscles and ligaments get tight, it throws our body out of proper alignment. For example, when our hamstrings get extremely tight, it pulls our hips out of alignment which causes tightness in the lower back. Also, when our chest muscles lose flexibility it causes us to sit in front of our computer with shoulders forward in a hunched forward position. This is one of the main causes of upper back pain. Most people can use their PPO and Medicare Insurance for a Physical Therapist to manually loosen up these area and teach you how to increase flexibility in your hamstrings and chest areas. We suggest you incorporate stretching into your daily work schedule twice a day for 5 minutes each.
3) Muscle Conditioning and Weight Loss – Increased weight, especially in your midsection can put a lot of extra pressure on all of the muscles in your back. I put these two strategies together because increasing your muscle conditioning will most assuredly lead to weight loss. Weight bearing workouts will lead to increased muscle on your body. Studies show us that for every 1lb or extra muscle on your body, you will burn an extra 50 calories a day. So, if you can increase the muscle mass on your body by 10lbs, then you will burn an extra 500 calories a day. This is significant because over a 7 day period, that is an extra calorie burn of 3,500 calories. Coincidentally, this is exactly what it takes to burn 1lb of fat per week.
By adding weight bearing workouts to your workout routine, you are killing two birds with one stone. Your muscles will be stronger and more able to take the daily stress put on them. In addition, decreased weight in your midsection will decrease the amount of daily stress put on your back muscles.
If you are experiencing back pain and want to finally get some lasting results, make sure you contact your local Physical Therapist. You are welcome to schedule a free consultation with one of our Physical Therapists by calling 951.684.2874, or fill out the form below: