Your Agile or Painful Lower Back

An agile lower back is a pleasure. No surprise there. Parts of your body that move fluidly generally feel good – it’s a basic health principle.

In contrast, lower back pain is everything it’s cracked up to be. It hurts! Most likely, the painful lower back is noticeably stiff and inflexible. Again, no surprise. An afternoon of people watching will confirm this, and you won’t have to look hard. 80% of Americans will have back problems at some point in their life, mostly in the lower back.

How can you deal with low back pain?

First, stop looking for a quick cure. Instead, remove the cause; then no cure is needed. Most likely, the cause isn’t in the back. There’s no shortage of possible contributors. A general observation is that the symptom and cause are seldom the same.

Second, lower backs don’t exist alone in space. In this sense, pain relief is a whole-body experience. It’s worth undertaking since the reward is much more than pain relief. The reward is agility. You can start enjoying the activities that pain steals from you.

A useful concept to initially consider is the pelvis-lower-back-complex. The reason: this complex houses your center of gravity. Your spine is cradled into the pelvis; the pelvis is balanced over the legs; and the legs are balanced over the ankles and feet. An imbalance anywhere is transmitted to your lower back.

If we wish to avoid pain, don’t wait until it appears. Pay attention to whole-body balance, movement and posture beforehand.

A few observations/suggestions are:

1. stand on 2 identical bathroom scales. Place one foot is on each scale. Do the scales read roughly the same (half of your weight)? If not, send more weight down the light side.

2. look at a well-worn pair of shoes. If there are “run-over” heels, shift more weight front. If the fronts of the soles are overly worn, shift more weight back. If outside surfaces are worn, shift weight toward the inside.

3. notice your walking stride. If the right foot steps further ahead than the left, you have a right/forward pelvic twist.

4. if one side of the pelvis is high (the so-call “long leg”), start placing more weight on it. Also, relax (stretch) the inside/top of the long leg. Left alone, scoliosis is fore-shadowed.

5. Is your pelvis higher in the back than in the front? If so, the hip is tilted forward, and the lower spine will be dragged forward with it.

6. Do your knees and feet point straight ahead? If not, neither the pelvis nor the lower spine is fully supported.

7. Keep your low back in awareness by moving it. The brain dedicates a miserly serving of nerves to the low back, and it’s easy to lose awareness.

Address back pain with knowledge and self-awareness. Get ahead of it. Take life’s pleasures back.


Jack Menear