Do you have pain doing simple tasks that require you to forward-bend like brushing your teeth, washing the dishes or even making your bed in the morning? If you do then you absolutely want to read this. I’m going to describe you how to do these activities with less pain and stress to your lower back.
How to bend safely?
One of the most important things that you should know as a back pain sufferer is how to bend and lift safely. Now we actually just can’t get around this activity. We have to do things like brush our teeth in the morning, we have to wash the dishes and make the bed and so forth and these are all the activities that require us to forward-bend just a small amount. These are activities that when sustained for even short periods can cause a lot of discomfort. Therefore, we want to know how to get around this.
The problem with bending
Now the problem is that most to these activities are carried out using a rounded back posture. Let me explain what that is. We can actually bend forward from the lumbar spine, which is what most people do. So if we only have to bend forward just a little bit, that access ends up being the lumbar spine when we are brushing our teeth or doing the dishes. Moreover, you can see when you look at your lower back where the movement is coming from. It’s coming from the spine. You are hunching forward in order to do that activity.
Part of the problem is that when we hunch forward into this position, we are elongating the muscles in the back and if they’re already tired, agitated and have trigger points in them, they’re just going to get more fatigued and this may lead to spasm. The other thing is that if we forward flex enough – approximately 45 degrees or so, the muscles actually shut off at a certain point and what we’re doing is we’re hanging by the ligaments in the connective tissues. At first, we can do that for small period of time, but if we do it for longer periods of time then we can agitate that issue which can lead to inflammation and this can last for days. The easiest simile I can give you is that if you stick your index finger and you slightly bend it back; that actually feels somewhat good. However, if I leave it here for a minute, two minutes or even longer, the tissue in the finger is going to start to get agitated. So if I pull it back into a nice stretch and then I let it go, it recovers pretty quick but the longer I hold that sustained position, the more I stress that issue, then when I let my finger go, it doesn’t feel better right away. Sometimes that feeling of strain persists. Therefore, you have to use this analogy to think about what’s going on with the back when we hunch forward for long periods of time off the ligaments rather than using our own muscles to hold ourselves upright.
Slouching makes you feel better because you’re not having to use the muscles but the problem is that sitting upright is also really weary on the back. While we do our corrective exercises, stretching and self-mobilization programs and so forth, we need to learn how to effectively bend-forward while reducing the strain on the spine. Of course, we want to avoid the sustained bent forward positions for long periods as well.
The solution to reduce back pain while bending
Okay so the easiest way to learn how to do this is with a stick. You can use any kind of stick or you can use mop handle if you want to – it all works. The whole point is learning how to hold your spine in the right position. Rather than what we talked about in the beginning, which is flexing forward from the spine, what we want to learn how to do is to tip forward from the hips. This is distinctly different because what we’re doing is holding the lumbar curve into a neutral position when we tip forward rather than going into flexion. The goal here is not to have a hard extension in the lower back when we tip forward. If we flex forward from the lumbar spine, we not only are stressed again on those ligaments in the spine but we can also put increased pressure on the discs, which is a problem we have a disc bulge. If we have too much hard arch in the lower back or lordosis, then the problem is we start to put strain on the facet joints in the spine and that can also cause problems. When in doubt always go to the neutral position. The neutral is neither full extension nor full flexion – it’s in the middle of those two.
When we learn to bend forward, we want to keep that neutral position and then put our axis of rotation (forward tipping) instead of being in the spine we want to put it in the hips. Place the stick behind your back – one point of contact is your sacrum down there, the next point is your mid back and then point number three is going to be your head and neck. Now we have a good posture alignment and a neutral pelvic tilt. From this point, you should soften your knees a little bit and what you are going to do is maintain all three points of contact as you bend forward.
If you look at the position of the lower back, you see that you are not losing the arch in your back but you are also not going into an excessive extension. When you forward bend like this, the load is being shifted down into your rear end, your glute muscles and in your hamstrings. You will get some contraction in your lower back but it’s in a neutral position rather than being extended or flexed. Therefore, from here you can bend forward, you set your weight back onto your heels a little bit, and now from here you can brush your teeth, you can do the dishes or whatever you need to.
Returning to upright position
If this position is too stressful you could always upright yourself a little bit by softening (bending) the knees even further. You see how that doesn’t change anything with the position in the spinal column. We can bend forward quite a bit or we can stay upright, then we do our task. Now to come out of this position we just push the hips forward and the knees back. Therefore, that’s how we maintain a neutral position in the spine – we tip forward from the hips and we can reduce stress in those cases where you may be suffering from back pain. This is essential and I urge you to make this a habit. Do it all the time any positions that you have to forward-bend. It’s really a lifesaver for back pain sufferers and I hope it serves you well.