Every individual at some point in their life experiences lower back pain. The back is a susceptive area of our body that needs careful handling. The most delicate and affected part of the spine is the neck, upper back (thoracic spine), lower back, and tailbone area. Mostly a muscle spasm and stiffness is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. However, soft tissue injuries, obesity, wrong sleeping positions and poor postures also contribute to lower back pain.
However, before we look into back pain remedies or treatments, it is necessary to understand the types and causes of pain.
Most Common Causes of Lower Back Pain
1- Muscle Strain –
When a muscle gets widely stretched it causes the ligaments to tear. A muscle strain can happen through heavy lifting, poor body postures, injuries, and sudden movements which leads to lower back pain.
2- Overweight –
Obesity is one of the many factors that drive lower back pain. The spine is made only to carry and distribute the body’s weight. With excessive weight, the backbone is burdened and can lead to injuries.
Posterior pelvic pain is common in women during pregnancy, which is felt below the waist and is due to the pregnancy weight gain. Pregnancy weight shifts the center of gravity, and the extra added weight weakens muscles in the back. Therefore, it causes the body to lean forward pulling the neck and shoulders down. Before doing any exercises to correct your posture during pregnancy, it is necessary to learn about the causes of lower back pain during pregnancy and safe pregnancy exercises.
3- Poor Posture –
Unhealthy postures can aggravate lower back pain, the stress of a faulty posture can cause problems with your joints, discs, and muscles. A back pain triggered by a wrong posture appears like a sudden pain when you’re sitting or standing up. The pain usually begins from the neck and moves down to the thoracic spine and lower back. When you hold your body in a particular wrong posture for long, the muscles around that area become stiff and weakens which then triggers upper and lower back pains. See exercises to improve posture and avoid pain in the back.
4- Chronic Pain –
Backache can also be a result of chronic pain triggered by spinal injuries, ligament sprains, herniated disc, fractures, trauma, and osteoarthritis. Unlike other backaches, chronic back pain is a dull ache that stays for a longer time. People with chronic backache have symptoms of depression, body fatigue, lack of sleep and experience emotional imbalance.
5- Arthritis –
Unlike other pains of the body, Arthritis is very common in the back. Unfortunately, many people do not suspect arthritis in their back that causing back pain, stiffness and loss of flexibility in the spine. Arthritis commonly attacks joints in the hands, knees, and hips.
Different types of arthritis may cause back pain and stiffness. It may be due to the occurrences of wear and tear of the joints in the spine, autoimmune disease and widespread inflammation, or infection. Or it becomes chronic. When you get older, you’re more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the spine. About 10 percent of people in their thirties have lumbar arthritis, more than 80 percent of people over age 80 will have arthritic changes in their life. Click on arthritis to find more about it.
5 Most Common Posture Problems & How to fix them
1- Hunchback (Upper Back Arch):-
A Hunchback posture is also known as a Kyphosis or rounded back where the thoracic spine or upper back is excessively curved more than 4o to 45 degrees. Many people do not notice, but they get an arched back due to the posture they hold their body into for the majority of the day. The default body posture happens when your brain keeps your body in a comfortable position for most of the time. For some people, this comfortable position is Hunchback. Sitting in the office looking at the computer screen or looking down at your phone the whole day leads to a tilted head and getting an arched back.
During a hunchback posture, the upper back muscles and chest muscles get tight and make the postural muscles to weaken and loosen. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen the upper back postural muscles and release the chest muscle stiffness.
How to fix a Hunchback Posture?
- Shoulder Blade Squeeze- Sit straight on a chair, and place your legs at a 90-degree angle. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold it for 5 seconds. Repeat this at least 10 times.
- Stretch your chest muscles – Raise your arms at your shoulder level in a straight line and slowly push your hands backward. Breath in and squeeze your shoulder blades when you slightly push your hands backward. Another way is to place your hands on two sides of a door frame and lunge forward. This exercise helps to release tight chest muscles and reduce stiffness in the upper back too.
- Shoulder rolls – Stand up straight, breath in and lift your shoulders upwards then exhale and roll back your shoulders. Repeat this 5 to 10 times every time you sit for a long time.
- Standing forward bend- Stand straight and place your two feet shoulder-width apart. Interlace your fingers behind you, breath in and bend forward from your hip down facing the floor, while pushing your hands towards the ceiling. Keep your back in a straight position and return to a standing position.
2. Anterior Pelvic Tilt (Lower Back Arch)
According to Herrington (2011) research, 85% of males and 75% of females exhibit the anteriorly tilted pelvis. Having an anterior tilt can affect your body posture and cause a lower back arch, sticking out bottom and stomach, shifted back position which leads to low back pain and stiffness.
To fix a lower back arch, you need to:
- Strengthen the weak muscles in the lower back
- Stretch and release tight muscles
- Strengthen your hamstrings, abdominal, and gluteal
The following anterior pelvic tilt stretches can improve flexibility in the back area and strengthen weak muscles:
- Bridge –Bring the lower back in a bridge position and hold for 30 seconds.
- Hip Lift -Place your feet on the wall and bend your knees to a 90-degree angle. Pull the heels down and lift your tailbone off the floor, while keeping your back flat on the ground. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Camel Pose -Go on a four-point kneeling position and tuck in your tailbone. Breath in, tuck the pelvis backward and hold for five seconds then exhale.
- Plank –position your hands on the floor while facing downwards and raise your body in one straight line from shoulders to heels. Aligning your shoulders right over your wrists is crucial. Plank pose helps to tone all core muscle in the body and reduce the abdomen, chest and lower back pain.
- Lower back stretch and side stretch-Sit on a chair and split your legs, then touch the ground with two hands, stretching your back. With existing lower back pain, it is hard to perform some of these exercises. Therefore, it is vital to address your back pain before fixing the forwarded pelvic tilt posture.
3. Posterior Pelvic Tilt (Flatback)
When the back of the hip drops and the front of the pelvis or hip rises, it forms a flat back. Unlike the anterior tilted pelvis, the posterior tilt is not that common. However, it is one of the contributing factors for lower back pain. A natural curve is necessary for the back to distribute the forces equally and help with body stability.
People with the posteriorly tilted pelvis and without curves in the back are more prone to muscular strains, bulging disc, and lumbar spine injuries. A flat back is mostly experienced by people who sit in the wrong positions for too long and more often. Excessive sitting can weaken and tighten the muscles in the pelvis, as a result, cause the pelvis to tilt backward.
Some of the exercises that can fix the posterior tilt include:
- Leg Lunges
- Upper back and lower back hamstring
- Leg Raises and crunches
- Abdominal stretches
- Superman stretches
- Sitting knee lifts
4. Swayback (Lordosis)
Many factors contribute to a swayback posture that leads to back pain. Swayback is also called hyperlordosis where the spine curves inward in the neck and lower back area. This position of the spine causes lower back pain and discomfort in the neck area.
A person with the swayback posture appears to have a stomach sticking out; shoulders tilted back and head tilted forward. Swayback characteristic features as upper back curved forward or moved backward, flat lower back, hyperextension of knees and hip,
tight upper abdominal, and pelvis pushed forward. One may experience tension, stiff muscles, and pain in the neck, back or shoulder area after staying in this posture for long.
What contributes to a Swayback?
- Tight muscles in the back
- Joints and Ligaments strains
- Stiff spine
- Ligaments laxity or overstretched pelvis
These contributing factors cause lower back pains and disturb the stability of the spine making it susceptible to injuries. It is very usual for people to get a swayback due to the bad habits of staying in poor postures of sleeping on their stomach and sitting in the wrong positions for too long. Therefore, correcting this posture is very important to prevent many body pains.
Some of the practices that can fix a swayback posture include:
- Strengthening the abdominal muscles, releasing the tight hamstring and back muscles.
- Practice good posture and sitting position- align your shoulders with your hips and walk tall without arching your back or slouching forward. Practice some of the most ideal sitting positions to achieve perfect stability.
- Release Joints- tight joints in the spine can misplace your position and get you stuck in a forward flexed position. Upper back rotation and wall lean is one of the exercises that help to release the stiff joints.
5. Forward Neck or Head
The neck is designed to support the skull and remains in a vertical position to balance the upper body. As the head moves forward, the shoulders and back also lean forward, which adds a lot of stress on the neck, shoulders and back area. Therefore, it is necessary to correct the forward head posture to avoid discomfort in the upper and lower back altogether.
When the head is extended forward past the shoulders, it causes a tiled head or neck. However, many other factors lead to a forwarded head including sitting in front of a computer and hunch over your neck to stare at the screen. This is why a forward head is also called a “computer guy.” A continuous forward head posture makes the muscles and joints around the neck tight, and if left unfixed, it can lead to more frequent disturbing headaches, tension, and pain in the back, shoulder, and neck.
A human body is designed with muscles that are responsible for keeping a good posture. After Lengthy hours of sitting, working on a computer, or holding a phone, these muscles weaken and tightens. As you move your head forward, shoulders tend to hunch forward too and further cause a hunchback posture. Hence, it is important to correct and work on keeping the right neck posture.
Some of the following exercise help with fixing a forward head posture, however, a good posture needs to be maintained to avoid further wrong posture problems:
- Stretch the Neck Muscles -You can stretch your neck in two different ways. First, place your hands on the back of your head and tuck your chin towards your chest. Apply gentle pressure on your head while stretching the muscles in your neck. Secondly, stand straight and bring your ear close to your shoulder, then hold your head down with your hand with soft pressure. Repeat the side stretch on both sides of your neck, hold it for 30 seconds on each side.
- Massage ball -sleep on your back flat on the ground. Take a tennis ball and put it below your head between your neck and the base of the skull. Roll your head in different directions to ensure muscles are getting relaxed and reducing stiffness. Perform this exercise for five minutes.
- Tuck the Chin -Lie down on the floor facing upwards to the ceiling, and bring your knees at a 90-degree angle. Tuck your chin down gently while bringing your head up in a nodding position without moving your neck. Repeat this 10 to 20 times and make sure to keep the movement slow.
- Align your Computer -Practice an ergonomically friendly work environment, align the seat and computer height with your eye-level. Keep the desktop screen 20 inches away from your eyes. Get up more often and move your head in different directions to get enough stretch and avoid muscle stiffness. Incorporate stretching exercises in your daily life to improve your posture.21 A posture cannot be fixed; it needs to be maintained.
How to determine if you have an anterior or posterior tilted pelvis?
In the posterior tilt, the back is flat, the legs rotate outwards, and in the anterior pelvis, the lower back arches back and the legs rotate inwards. You can measure the difference by also looking at the pelvic x-ray angle.