Data cited by the Mayo Clinic suggests that 80% of all Americans will, at some point, experience back pain. That number isn’t hard to believe, is it? Yet many causes of back pain are preventable. Our backs hurt because we do things that make them hurt. For example, a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to back pain.
A sedentary lifestyle is typified by a lack of exercise. We all know that not exercising is bad for us in so many ways. It can contribute to weight gain. It can interrupt sleep patterns and contribute to everything from heart disease to circulatory problems. It can even contribute to many of the problems that cause back pain.
Have you ever noticed that being sedentary makes you uncomfortable? That is nature’s way of telling you to get up and exercise. If you ignore nature, you run the risk of teaching your body to be content with remaining sedentary. That’s when the real problems begin.
Pain and the Lumbar Spine
Most back pain originates in the lower part of the back, also known as the lumbar spine. A recent blog post published by Lone Star Pain Management in Weatherford, Texas explains the structure of the lumbar spine and the physics that cause back pain.
To put it as simply as possible, the lumbar spine bears most of the upper body’s weight. The farther you go down in the spine, the more stress the bones experience. Exercise is important to the lower back inasmuch as it strengthens the muscles that support the spine.
Getting back to the previous point, remaining sedentary for extended periods of time causes the muscles in the lower back to weaken. As they do, your body is less uncomfortable about remaining sedentary. The muscles and spine get used to not doing anything. Stiffness and pain can set in.
Injuries From Reduced Flexibility
Pain and stiffness are not the only results of a sedentary lifestyle. Weaker muscle due to a lack of exercise can contribute to lower back injuries. Take lifting, for example. The proper way to lift is to bend at the knees and lift with the legs. But weak muscles in the back and legs can still put undue stress on the lower back. Even proper lifting techniques might not prevent a lower back injury in someone who does not exercise.
Next, a lack of flexibility can easily lead to nerve compression in the lower back. The resulting condition is known as sciatica. Sciatica pain begins in the lower back and can radiate all the way down the leg to the foot. Sciatica can cause weakness, numbness, and tingling in the back, hips, and legs.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Another thing to consider is degenerative disc disease. It is to the back what osteoarthritis is to knees and hips. Over time, the discs in the lower back lose their ability to cushion bones as tissue breaks down and wears away. This can cause severe back pain.
Exercise will not prevent degenerative disc disease, but it will slow it down. Regular exercise strengthens the back muscles so that they provide more overall support for the spine. This slows down the progression of degenerative disc disease by reducing the amount of stress the discs must endure.
The long and short of it is this: you are more likely to experience back pain if you live a sedentary lifestyle. Regular exercise that strengthens the back and leg muscles will go a long way toward preventing back pain. And if exercise can help you lose a few pounds, that will help, too.