Did you know that more than 80 percent of the population deals with lower back pain?
Think about it: so much of what we do on a daily basis, whether it’s moving or sitting, involves the back. Humans are constantly twisting, sitting, reaching, and lifting. There’s no wonder so many people suffer from lower back pain!
Now, does that mean a bad back is inevitable? Not exactly.
While some conditions might be out of your control, a bulk of back injuries can be avoided by exercising and moving properly.
Sure, lower back pain can be brought on by serious injuries. But they’re often the result of a muscular imbalance somewhere else in the body. Fellas – here are a few common imbalances that could be contributing to your pain.
If you work a desk job (or haven’t stretched since high school gym class), chances are your hips are tight. That’s because you’re sitting for at least eight hours every day– and this doesn’t even include the time you’re sitting in the car or relaxing on the couch! This type of position creates an anterior pull on the pelvis (a pelvic tilt), which inhibits your glutes’ ability to contract. A pelvic tilt often leads to a strain on your back, which reactively causes pain.
The good news, however, is that this tightness can usually be corrected with the use of a foam roller, or even by practicing the “couch stretch.”
TFL trigger points
Are you a runner? Ever get that weird tightness on the side of your leg near the hip bone? That’s your tensor fascia latae, otherwise known as your TFL. A tight TFL can lead to pain in numerous areas, especially the lower back, because it’s a hip stabilizer.
By this point, you’re most likely aware that the hips and the lower back are two peas in a pod. To avoid a painful lower back, you must do all you can to keep those hips open and healthy. The TFL balances our pelvis any time we move on our two feet, so keeping that muscle loose is essential. Much like with the hips, you can release the TFL with a foam roller, but keep in mind: this area is extremely tender. It will hurt the first time or two.
Sciatica and piriformis syndrome
If you’ve ever had any back pain that also involved numbness in one of your legs, you may have experienced an episode with sciatica. Piriformis syndrome is a very similar issue in that they both involve muscles compressing the SI joint, but the two are treated very differently.
The symptoms caused by both conditions can be alleviated with the use of a foam roller or through different stretches. Sometimes the pain even goes away on its own.
However, if the numbness persists for more than a few days, you should see a doctor immediately to confirm you do not have a herniated disk.
Stress is not an imbalance, but rather one of those issues that never seems like a big deal until it causes people to break—literally.
Stress can sometimes be even worse for men because they’ve been shown to respond to stress by both mentally and physically shutting down. They withdraw socially, which can lead to bad habits like poor sleep patterns, a bad diet, and less exercise. All of these can contribute to low back pain because your body needs good nutrition to function at optimally. Stress also tenses your muscles, which can lead to unwanted strain on the lower back.
Hitting the sack might make you feel like you’ve been hit by a sack.
Humans spend roughly one-third of their lives sleeping. If sitting for eight hours every day causes people so many problems, why would sleeping in a bad position for the same amount of time be any different?
The big thing to know when it comes to sleep and back pain is that sleeping on your stomach is a big no-no. Your spine bends and loses support when forced into that position, which makes it irritable the following day. And while guys do tend to snore more than women, and sleeping on your stomach can surely help with that problem, your back will pay the price.
Similarly, sleeping on your back can also be an issue when there is no knee support and your spine isn’t properly aligned, so your best bet is to either sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees or to make sure you have knee support while sleeping on your back.
There are so many different contributors to back pain, and it can seem impossible to find the one causing you trouble. Still, that doesn’t mean you should give up. Try and see if some of your symptoms might match the ones above, and if so, find a solution that works. Your back – and your body – will be better for it. Please do not hesitate to see a doctor if your back pain persists.