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Spine Health: More Important Than You Thought
One of the most common reasons that people visit their doctor is lower back pain. Lower back pain is the second most prevalent reason for seeking medical care behind the common cold.
Eighty percent of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lives, and 10-15% of all sports injuries are linked to the spine.
Back pain can rob you of productivity when you’re working and of your comfort when you’re relaxing. For adults under the age of 45, lower back pain is the most common reason for activity limitation.
Lower back pain is caused by agitation of the spine. The spine is an integral part of the human body, and it is vital to keep it strong and healthy. It provides structure for our bodies, protection for our central nerves, and promotes movement within the body. Along with our opposable thumbs, our upright spines are one of the distinguishing factors that separate us from other animals.
The Structure of Your Spine
The spine consists of 24 semi-rigid presacral vertebrae; seven cervical, twelve thoracic, and five lumbar. These vertebrae are divided by intervertebral discs. These discs help absorb shock and allow for flexibility of the vertebrae.
Within the spine, five sacral vertebrae connect to create the sacrum, which is responsible for transporting weight from the upper body to the pelvis, and through the sacroiliac joint. The coccyx, also known as the tailbone, is also part of the spine and makes up the bottom of the vertebral column.
Along your mid-back area, bony protrusions come together to form the spinous process, which you can feel by rubbing your back. Ligaments are also placed along the spine, helping to provide security and protect nerves from the brain to the body.
A variety of different muscle groups are attached to the spine. These muscles play a huge part in preserving your spinal health. Stress on these muscles can cause considerable back pain.
If you consistently feel back pain, there could be an issue in your spine that is causing the sensation. In order to diagnose your problem, though, it is imperative to gain a firm understanding of how the spine is structured and how it functions. Continue reading with all33 to learn about the different parts of the spine and why they are so important.
Iliopsoas (Psoas + Iliacus) Complex
The iliopsoas complex, which is made up of the psoas and iliacus, is located deep inside the abdomen and hip. These muscles connect the lumbar vertebrae and the iliac crest to the top of the femur. They are highly active during exercises like bent knee leg raises and sit-ups.
The iliopsoas muscles can be damaged by excessive sitting and driving, large amounts of kicking such as in martial arts or soccer, and sleeping in the fetal position.
The paraspinal muscles act as a vehicle for movement for the spine. They allow for rotation, extension, and bending. Within this muscle group are the erector spinae and multifidus—both are smaller groups of muscles.
The paraspinal muscles can be damaged by an overload of weight, repeated movement with poor posture, slouching, tight abdominal muscles, and sitting for long periods of time.
The rectus abdominis is what most people know as the “abs.” This part of the spine is basically a sheet of muscle on your stomach. It is located between your lowest ribs and the top of your pubic bone. The rectus abdominis’s job is to help stabilize the torso.
The rectus abdominis, though it can be strengthened through exercises like crunches and sit-ups, can also be damaged by overtraining. For this reason, it is crucial not to tire your abs out past the level of exhaustion.
Strain on the abdominal muscles can lead to a weakened ability to lift weight overhead and can also cause lower back injury. Excess abdominal fat and using weight-training belts can also cause strain on the abdominals.
Gluteus Group: Maximus/Medius/Minimus
The gluteus group, essentially, is the muscles in your buttocks region. These muscles allow your thighs to move behind you, such as when you walk backward. They also allow your hips and thighs to rotate.
The gluteus muscles can be damaged by sitting for long periods of time, sitting on an object like your wallet or phone, sleeping in the fetal position, or sleeping on your back with your feet covered by a heavy blanket.
The piriformis is one of the smaller muscles in the spine. It is entrenched deep inside the gluteus muscles and brings the thigh and pelvis together. The piriformis is placed near the sacrum.
This muscle works to rotate the thigh outward and move the leg to the side when the thigh is flexed. It can be damaged by distance running, sitting for long periods of time, sitting with one foot beneath you, and walking with your toes out.
The quadratus lumborum, also referred to as the “QL,” is located deep within the torso near the kidneys. It is the deepest muscle in the abdomen and helps bend, rotate, and straighten out the torso when it’s bent.
The QL also plays a role in your breathing. Particularly, it assists with your exhalations, like when you cough, sigh, or sneeze. When you put strain on your QL, it becomes painful or uncomfortable to do these simple things.
The QL can be damaged by structural imbalances such as having an asymmetrical pelvis or having one leg longer than the other. It can also be strained by leaning your weight on one side of your body, slouching, and sleeping on one side of your body every night.
Your hamstrings are not technically a part of your spine. However, tight hamstrings can cause lower back pain. The muscles behind your legs actually help keep your back loose. These large leg muscles stretch across the back of your thighs and link at the hip and the knee. The hamstrings bend and support the knee.
Your hamstrings can be damaged by sitting for long periods of time, laying down for long periods of time, and overtraining.
The soleus is another part of your body that isn’t a part of your spine, but can affect it. This muscle sits deep inside your calf. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to walk, jump, or point our toes. When strained, the soleus can radiate pain all the way up to the sacrum.
The soleus can be damaged by bedding that weighs down your toes, standing still for too long, sitting in a high chair where your feet don’t touch the floor, or wearing high-heeled shoes or tight shoes in general.
Your Spine Health Is Worth Investing In
Typically, issues in the spine are caused by a multitude of factors. If you’re feeling consistent back pain, it is likely that you have some kind of predisposition to it. Back pain can be spurred on by bad mobility and flexibility in the surrounding muscles, weak biomechanics, or muscle imbalances.
There could also be factors in your daily life to blame. More often than not, back pain is caused by a sedentary lifestyle, improper posture, or a combination of both. Though some people may be more prone to back pain than others, everyone can benefit from consistent physical activity and good posture.
Caring for Your Spine
Next time you’re at work, or even just watching TV at home, make a conscious effort to avoid slouching. Raise your chest up, keep your back straight, and look straight ahead. If you’re staring at a screen, make sure your target is at eye level, so you’re not bending your neck down to see it. Try to make it a habit to sit and stand with correct posture.
Most injuries to the spine happen while exercising or training. The vast majority of spine injuries are muscle strains or ligament sprains, usually caused by poor technique. Always pay attention to your body and allow for ample time to rest between workouts.
The safest position to flex the lumbar spine is to keep your spine in a neutral position. Your spine naturally has an S-shaped curve, but you don’t want to exaggerate it and over-curve your back. You can practice finding a neutral point for your spine by flexing your back, extending it, then finding the point at which your back feels most comfortable and relaxed. Use a mirror to help.
One way to relieve your back pain and prevent future issues is to invest in a quality chair. Here at all33, we provide the most innovative, spine-friendly chair on the market. Our chairs are the only ones in the world that allow for full movement in the pelvis and back.
You won’t ever slouch again with our chairs. All of our chairs are designed to promote perfect posture, flexibility, blood flow, and oxygen flow. Give your neck and shoulders some relief with our BackStrong chair!