Body Mechanics: 5 Tips to Reduce Back Pain
It’s likely that you or someone you know has experienced lower back pain. In fact, a study from the National Institute of Health suggests that 8 out of 10 U.S. adults will experience back pain within their lifetime1. So, what is everyone doing that is causing all that pain? The major types of lower back pain can be attributed to a combination of obvious factors including cumulative trauma, limited flexibility and overall deconditioning. But the most important and least talked about cause for lower back pain is poor “body mechanics.”
What is Body Mechanics?
Body mechanics is defined as movements and exercises designed to improve posture, coordination, and stamina. People with poor body mechanics move in a manner that causes the spine to be subjected to abnormal stresses. Over time, these abnormal stresses can accelerate the cascade of spinal disc degeneration and overall wear and tear. That’s why it’s essential to learn and utilize the principles of proper body mechanics for balance in movement.
Now that you understand how poor body mechanics may cause you to seek out physical therapy for lower back pain, here are 5 things you can do to reduce the pain and improve your body movement.
1. Stand Straight
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
- Create a small hollow in your low back by tucking your tailbone in and tilting your pelvic bone slightly forward. This is done by tightening your buttock muscles and thus rotating the pelvis to a neutral position
- Pull your shoulders back and lift chest forward
- Rest your chin in a leveled neutral position
2. Chin Tucks
- In sitting or standing with proper posture, slide your chin backward
- Hold this position for 5 seconds
- perform 20 repetitions at 2-3 times per day
3. Shoulder Squeezes
- In sitting or standing with arms at side, squeeze shoulder blades together
- Hold this for 5 seconds and perform 20 repetitions at 2-3 times per day
4. Lift/Carry Weight Properly
- Always prepare your mind for the amount of weight you are about to lift
- Keep a stable base of support with your feet placed shoulder-width apart
- Stand as close to object as possible
- Bend from your hips and legs, NOT your back
- As you turn, move your feet to prevent twisting of your trunk
- Keep your abdominal muscles firm without over-arching your back
- Lift with your legs, not your back
- Use smooth and controlled movements throughout the lifting process
5. Utilize the McKenzie Method
The McKenzie Method is an evidence-based assessment and treatment process that engages the patient into active involvement. It is used by physical therapists and their patients for neck, back, and extremity problems. It is a logical, step-by-step process that begins with history taking, testing of postures, repeated movements, and sustained positions in order to determine a classification and develop a treatment program that is unique to the patient.
Here’s the point…
While there are many causes of lower back pain, most people are suffering because of poor body balance and alignment. Whether you’re at your desk or on your feet or even asleep, it’s important to continuously maintain your posture, coordination, and stamina. Several physical therapists in the Ivy Rehab family are certified under the McKenzie Method. Based upon the evaluation, the physical therapist will perform an individualized assessment of your lower back pain caused by faulty body mechanics, poor posture, limited flexibility, or weakness of a particular muscle group.
If you’re experiencing back pain, visit a physical therapist first.
Click here to request an appointment at any of our clinics across the east coast or midwest. Remember that you do not need a prescription. In most states, you can begin physical therapy treatment without a prescription. For states with limited direct access laws, you can still come in for a free consultation with one of our physical therapists without a prescription.
Article by: Holly Lookabaugh-Deur, PT, DSc, GCS, CEEAA
Holly is a practicing physical therapist, partner and Director of Clinical Services at Ivy Rehab Network with more than 40 years of experience in sports management with young athletes, and is board certified as a geriatric clinical specialist and certified exercise expert for aging adults. Deuer is certified as an aquatic and oncology rehabilitation specialist and serves as adjunct faculty at Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University.