Five Common Mistakes Everyone Makes that Aggravate Low Back Pain

1) Opening the door for your spouse

Yes, the time-honored tradition of gentlemanly civility may actually be irritating your lower back if done incorrectly.  Pulling open a tight closing door above the waistline by reaching above shoulder height can aggravate your lower back by producing a larger reaction moment and resulting spinal load.  By simply pulling a handle toward the body in line with the lumbar vertebrae you can reduce the reactive joint moment and relieve your aching back.

2) Walking your large dog

Dog may be man’s best friend, but an untrained dog pulling on a leash is one of the worst enemies a lower back can make.  Leaning the torso back and pulling upward with the shoulder, as many people do, creates excess compression forces in the low back and disturbs proper spinal motor control. Try keeping the leash close to the body and focus your arms to pull directly through the low back to ensure many more fun-filled romps with Fido.

3) Vacuuming your house one-handed

It has to be done.  Dust bunnies are a real and ever-present danger in our modern lives.  But you don’t have to be in pain just because you had to vacuum.  Most people incorrectly assume it’s the bending that leads to their pain.  More likely, it is the simple act of pushing and pulling the vacuum to the side of the body. The large sustained reaction torque in the lower spine leaves you feeling stiff and uncomfortable the next day.  By simply pushing and pulling the vacuum with both hands directly in line with the lumbar vertebrae, you can eliminate asymmetric loading and reduce the reaction moment. 

4) Resistance training right after you wake up

Wake up, jump in the car, do a few quick stretches, then perform some burpees in boot camp class or smash a 300-yard drive from tee one.  This scenario may actually be increasing your chances of low back pain.  Low back expert Dr. Stuart McGill has shown evidence for increased annulus (disc) stresses during activity after a bout of bed rest.  He cautions that, prior to a morning workout which includes multiple spinal flexions, care should be taken to move around for at least an hour to reduce the risk of aggravating the low back pain.  He also cautions against performing morning stretches such as the classic supine knees to the chest or toe touching.  These stretches can actually destabilize the spine prior to activity.  

5) Not picking up light objects like a golfer

Everyone knows the classic “one leg back” golf ball pick-up a pro uses on the course to confidently lift out her tournament-winning birdie putt.  But did you know this is exactly the same kind of spine-sparing strategy you can use to pick up any light object that falls onto the floor? It’s especially beneficial after prolonged sitting or stooping.  By simply leaning forward at the hips and balancing on one foot, with a hand on a golf club, desk, or counter for balance, rotate about the hip, lean the torso forward, and lift up the object.  Projecting one of your legs out backward allows you to use it as a cantilever and reduce the spinal compressive and torsion load.  Who knew the confident way you picked up your golf ball after the eagle on seventeen was also the way you should have picked up the pen that rolled off your desk this afternoon?