April 21, 2021
Research shows that 266 million people worldwide experience low back pain annually, and 80 percent of all people experience some type of back pain throughout their lives. Learn how spinal stabilization can help reduce and even prevent that often debilitating pain.
Risk Factors for Low Back Pain
Individuals with a poor diet, who smoke, or who do not exercise frequently are at greater risk of experiencing low back pain. Here’s why:
- Poor nutrition can lead to decreased bone density and increase your risk of spinal fracture.
- Smoking causes your blood vessels to tighten, which can delay the healing of back injuries.
- Lack of exercise can leave core and hip muscles weakened and the spine not well stabilized.
Changing your eating habits, exercising consistently, and smoking cessation can be difficult. On the other hand, spinal stabilization is fairly simple.
What Is Spinal Stabilization?
Spinal stabilization uses various muscle groups surrounding the spine to reduce stress to the structures of the low back. Simply activating the muscles of your trunk and hips provides support to the low back during daily activities like snow shoveling and gardening. Here’s how it works.
How to Strengthen Your Core and Gluteal Muscles
Two major muscle groups stabilize the low back and are key in lifting heavy and objects and performing repetitive tasks.
You can activate your core muscles, located in the abdominal region, by trying to bring your navel or belly button in toward your spine and up under your rib cage. It is extremely important to continue breathing when activating this muscle group.
Activate the muscles in your gluteal region by squeezing the buttock muscles. These muscles help to assist in bending, lifting, and squatting.
Tips for Heavy Lifting and Repetitive Tasks
When performing heavy lifting or repetitive tasks, protect your back with these tips.
- Bend at the knees and hinge forward at the hips so your low back can remain in a stabilized position.
- Avoid twisting at the trunk. Use small steps to turn your entire body toward the desired direction. This will reduce stress to the cushion-like structures between each bone in the back called discs.
- Don’t hold your breath. Breathing provides the brain and the other body systems with oxygen, so it is extremely important to continue breathing when performing any activity, especially lifting and carrying. Holding your breath can limit oxygen supply and lead to serious injury or even death. Practice the spinal stabilization techniques above while you breathe so activating the two muscles groups during inhalation and exhalation becomes natural.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing new or recurring back pain, talk with your primary care physician for a physical therapy referral. Physical therapy can help reduce pain levels through body mechanics training, pain reduction strategies, and strength training. Most Lancaster General Health outpatient clinics have the ability to treat a wide variety of spinal issues to help improve the quality of your life.