I think everyone has experienced some pain or discomfort during movement at some point in their lives, but what kind of movement causes pain? Lifting something heavy? Emptying the dishwasher? Shoveling snow? Gardening? Raking or sweeping? Can these everyday movements really cause us pain?
I know it’s probably easier to imagine picking up something heavy can cause pain versus emptying the dishwasher, but the truth is NONE of these movements should cause pain. Yes, that’s right, I said it, but how can that be?
So here’s the thing, it’s not the movement that causes the pain it’s the WAY we do these movements. I know most of you are probably thinking that’s crazy, but just think about it for a minute.
How many times in a day do you bend over? Whether it’s picking up your kids/grandkids, emptying the dishwasher or picking something up from the floor we all do that ALL the time, but do you think about how you are doing it? I’m gonna guess and say NO, right? And why should we think about it; we have been doing it since we were babies. We know how to do it, but do we really? Well we do know how to do it, but that doesn’t mean it is correct and that it won’t eventually cause us pain.
I know it is a little overwhelming to think that how we are moving is what is causing the pain, but just bear with me because the good news is you can fix it. Yes, I said you can fix it.
And it’s really not that hard to do. Changing the movement is pretty easy the challenging part is being mindful when you do it so you can change it. It is being mindful while performing a mindless task like bending over.
Let’s take bending over as an example. When we bend over most of us flex (round) our spines which puts your lower back at risk because you are changing the position the spine is naturally in which puts your lumbar spine (lower back) at risk. So you may be thinking why does that put your lumbar at risk? I’ll try to explain and not geek out with a lot of anatomy speak.
The spine has natural curves; the cervical spine (neck) and your lumbar spine (lower back) have what is called a lordotic curve (think of the letter C) and the thoracic spine (mid back, just below your neck and above the the low back) has a kyphotic curve (think of the letter C backwards). When you change these curves (and you can with load) the spine becomes compromised. So if you are performing a task while reversing the curves in the spine and adding load (picking something up while flexing the spine) you get pain. Thus ends the anatomy lesson.
Ok now we know why, so the question is how do we fix it? Firstly, you have to be aware that’s how you are moving (that’s the hard part) because you can’t fix something you don’t know you do. So let’s look at the mechanics of bending over, instead of flexing the spine (rounding the back) try to do a hip hinge. Hip hinging is simply keeping the back long and straight (knees bent, think mini squat) and bend at the hip socket and make sure you stick your butt out. If you are bending over with your tail tucked under that is what NOT to do. Back long and butt out!
This position maintains the curves of the spine and distributes the load across the length of you. And it can help you strengthen those deep back muscles and allow the bigger muscles to perform the task. That’s it! It’s that easy!
The best part is, you can practice it every time you bend over which if you’re like me is ALL the time! Give it a try!