How many of us are plagued by countless hours sitting at a desk hunched over a keyboard dreaming of future weekend adventures? We wire our neuromuscular system for terrible body mechanics and then when it’s time to play nagging low back pain presents itself. Low back pain(LBP) effects more than 3 million people in the US every year. LBP will put a real damper on your plans when standing and walking cause pain. No worries this is usually an easy issue to correct through self care, stretching and strength training.
What causes low back pain? Our spines are amazing when we think about it, the amount of work and support that it gives us for all of our activities is incredible. When pain starts to presents itself it is often attributed to hours of bad alignment that our muscular system has been able to compensate for until it reached the tipping point resulting in pain. Stress on the spine should be supported by the musculature of our core but due to either a weak core or an overload to one aspect of our core causing one side of the body to shorten and the other side to become deconditioned and inactive.
So how can a backpack help with back care? Stuart McGill believes that by wearing a backpack for as little as 5 minutes on uneven ground every day with approximately 20lb load can help individuals who are flexion intolerant. Exacerbated by prolonged sitting will make it troublesome when attempting to standing from a chair after long periods of sitting. When the lumbar spine tilts forward it begins to pinch nerves and compress the disk between vertebrae. This may even cause pain or numbness down one leg. By weaning a weighted backpack and walking on a uneven surface the pack pulls the back into a better alignment while also giving a therapeutic rocking motion side to side which helps to activate the proper muscles that support the spine.
Dr. McGill states that wearing a weighted backpack is superior to wearing a weighted vest for those experiencing low back pain due to the weight coming from behind instead of the top.
The same rules apply to wearing a backpack around the park for 5 minutes as when carrying a fully load pack for a multiday hike. R.E.I. recommends that when you place weight in your pack make sure that the bulk of the weight is placed close to your body in the middle of the pack. Having too much weight in the top half of a pack can cause too much stress to the mid back which is less stability on the low back.
While wearing a weighted pack is great way to help with reducing LBP and realigning the spine, strength training is necessary to make sure that the core musculature of the spine is strong and stable for future adventures. Strength training your core 2-3 days per week will help your endurance so that you can adventure longer, stronger and have better posture while sitting at the desk daydreaming of mountain tops and rapids.
Try out Dr. McGills’ Big Three back exercises to help stabilize and strengthen your core.
X2-3 Sets of the following circuit:
15 Curl Ups
20 Alternating Bird Dog
:30 second R&L Side Planks