Typical Morning: Bathroom, Coffee, (No more) Back Pain

Posted: February 3, 2012 in Uncategorized
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The original title of this article was,”One thing people with back pain should avoid” or something along those lines. This would have been a critical error in thought process and paradigm. As I have written about here, and here pain is often just the end result of dysfunction and improper movement patterns. Ideally, we want to prevent pain from occurring by teaching patients/clients to move well and avoid things that could (potentially) harm them.

That being said, what I want to focus on today is the concept of avoiding low back or lumbar flexion especially first thing in the morning. I know most of you are probably thinking that you don’t do anything that involves bending early in the morning (yoga,sit-ups, etc.) but I think you may be surprised with how much bending you actually do without even knowing it. But more on that later…

Let’s back up a step and understand why early morning flexion can be so harmful.

As we sleep, our spinal discs attract water. This is known as being hydrophilic (they love water). This is also why we are taller when we wake up in the morning, our discs hydrate and gravity has not had a chance to work its magic and compress us to our normal (shorter) height.

With our discs attracting water this leaves them ‘full’ (think a balloon filled with water) and subsequently much more fragile and sensitive to injury. Add this to a position that the low back really hates (flexion) and you have a recipe for disaster.

                               this looks and sounds awful

According to Professor Stuart McGill, the authority on all things having to do with low back research and injuries (and on having the coolest mustache in North America) the stresses associated with morning bending(flexion) are about 3 times higher than if you were to perform the same exercise a few hours later.

Ok, now back to a few activities that you may do in the morning with a substantial amount of lumbar flexion.

First we have brushing teeth. Pretty easy right? Most people I know will do something like this…

Notice, I am completely bent over and my low back is flexed.

A simple solution: Stand straight up!!! Notice, no low back flexion.

Another common thing we do in the morning is either putting on or tying shoes. Most people are guilty of doing this…

Again, notice the complete lumbar flexion. If you are doing this, your spine hates you. Really, really, really hates you. I swear!!!

A solution is something so simple as using a chair for support as shown below…

Notice my sweet green socks and that my low back is completely neutral with minimal flexion. All of my motion is coming from the hip, not the low back.

So there you have it. Two quick early morning spine sparing strategies that can save you from back pain!

Thanks for reading!

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