With Gavin Buehler
According to studies, back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. A new book by Alex Bezzerides titled, “Evolution Gone Wrong,” doesn’t offer much hope in finding a solution for back pain, but rather explains why we are so prone to it, and that at some point in your life, it’s coming for you. While science is telling us it’s inevitable, I believe that we can at the very least extend the pain free period by being conscious of our movement and reduce the patterns that might expedite us to the pain.
Homer Simpson once said, “There’s 3 ways of doing things. The right way, the wrong way and the Max Power way!”
Bart - “Isn’t that the wrong way?”
Homer - “Yes, but faster!”
So, let’s try and avoid the Max Power way shall we?
Our spines are designed to move in certain ways, and then there are stresses that challenge its integrity. Shear force is one of the bad stresses that we’d like to avoid. You can imagine it as a tearing force where instead of your spine bending in a nice arch pattern it shifts laterally in a tearing motion. (Watch the video for a better visual explanation.) This shearing pattern puts more stress on other supporting muscles such as the quadratus lumborum and multifidi muscles. These are back muscles that often get “tweaked,” and makes it feel like you’ve, “thrown out your back.” This force can happen side to side, front to back and variations in between, but I’m going to focus on lateral (side to side) shear force for this short article.
When is this lateral shear force occurring? Probably all the time and you don’t even realize it! Are you sitting and slouching to one side right now? It’s probably happening. Every time you carry something in one hand, shift your weight to one hip while standing, cradling your baby, there’s a good chance you are doing it in a way that puts a greater amount of shear force through segments of your spine than there needs to be. You are doing it the Max Power way.
In the video below I show some examples of common body positions where we might have excessive shear force in our spine and offer some alignment solutions to reduce this.
In short being conscious of when this might be happening is the best solution, but you also need to have the core strength to carry yourself in optimal alignment patterns to reduce the tension.
Nearly every patient that I see who comes in with low back pain has weakness through their oblique muscles. When we think of these muscles, we think about these muscles being the prime movers for twisting and side bending. That’s what we’ve been taught. However, these muscles spend much more time providing stability in the forms of anti-rotation and torso counter balancing. (Literally every movement we do transfers through the core.) They are also the largest abdominal muscles in the body and often the most under trained. They are important and play a large role in preventing spinal shear force and alleviating strain on the deeper small muscles and ligaments that support our spinal segments. Oblique strengthening is a good place to start for avoid and reducing back pain. I discussed proper side planks for oblique strengthening in a previous newsletter, but here’s the tutorial video for you to revisit should you be inclined.
As always, this video is for educational purposes only. Please consult a health professional before attempting new exercises or protocols, as the following suggestions may or may not be appropriate for you.
I hope you find this information helpful. Any feedback or comments are welcome through firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a topic you would like discussed, let us know!