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September 10, 2010

More specialized gels exist for lower back pain than any other musculo-skeletal disorder. Credit this both to its prevalence and severity to those who suffer from it. In an industry so misguided by beliefs in magic pills and wonder diets, it’s no wonder so many myths exist about the lower back. So let’s identify and discuss a few of these myths and then provide a few strategies that actually provide a healthy and functional lower back.

Lower back myth No. 1: Strengthen your lower back
The prevailing opinion on individuals suffering from lower back pain is that their backs are too weak. So the popular solution is to simply strengthen it. This is a mistake. When comparing individuals with healthy backs and those with injured backs, one of the surprising details is that those with injured backs actually have lower back musculature that is comparatively stronger than those with healthy backs. The difference between the two is the strength and functionality of the glutes. When the glutes function optimally and have adequate strength, they appropriately handle workload and keep the back safe from injury.

Lower back myth No. 2: Stretch your hamstrings
According to Dr. Stuart McGill, the only time the hamstrings should be stretched is when an asymmetry is present between the left and right hamstrings. Other than that scenario, his findings reveal that the best performers in athletics actually have tighter hamstrings then their competitive counterparts. McGill adds that the typical tightness people feel in their hamstrings is actually a neural tightness, not a purely soft-tissue phenomenon. The tighter my hamstrings become, the stronger and faster the person becomes. Traditional static stretching may actually impair this powerful spring mechanism.

Lower back myth No.3: Do crunches and sit ups
Lower back pain is often exacerbated when the spine is forcibly flexed and placed into a rounded position. Yet, this is exactly what sit ups and crunches do to the spine. Even though countless individuals complain of lower back and neck pain when performing these exercises, they continue to perform hundreds of repetitions each and every time they enter a gym. If lower back health is a goal, then any exercise involving loaded spinal flexion, especially sit ups and crunches, should be avoided.

Smart lower back choices: Home
Most injuries happen at the most random of occasions and usually involve something very trivial in nature, like picking up a book. This is simply because people forget to pay attention to little things like lifting objects with appropriate form when it seems like a light object. So instead of squatting down, facing the object, and lifting an object utilizing leg muscles, people reach with a rounded back and a sharp pain shoots through your back and sidelines you for weeks. The golden rule is to respect everything around you, regardless of seemingly light an object is.

Smart lower back choices: Gym
Even though crunches and sit ups are not the answers, strengthening your core musculature will help keep your lower back healthy and functioning optimally. Exercises like planks and side planks emphasis the entire musculature around the core working together to keep the spine in neutral position making it a great choice for keeping the back functionally sound.

Smart lower back choices: Work
Although the single act of sitting can create the beginning stages of dysfunctional glutes and comprised lower back positioning, there are methods of minimizing the adverse effects seated work has on lower backs. In a perfect world, your new workstation would be one of those treadmills that keeps you walking briskly all day long. Unfortunately, this kind of proactive solution is unrealistic for most, so the simple application of workplace ergonomics is the next best thing and works very effectively when coupled with other proactive lifestyles.

Luke Sniewski currently works as a CPA as well as a fitness consultant. He works by weaving the health and wellness world with the business professional world. Working with companies and business professionals, his organization, LEAF, provides CPE courses that aim to improve the overall quality of life through the implementation of proactive lifestyles. Visit www.leaflifestyle.com for more details.

Comments (2)
Thank you for the feedback! It is always appreciated. I hope that you implement these changes and that they provide relief to your back aches.
Posted by LukeSniewski | Tuesday, September 28 2010 at 4:16AM ET
GREAT article. I've got some recent back problems which I have been mistakenly (mythically?) treating. Thanks for the very, very useful information.
Posted by | Monday, September 13 2010 at 11:13AM ET
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