Niggle. Twinge. Pang. Never put lower back pain on the back burner. It doesn’t matter whether you feel an occasional grumble or carry a painful ache with you always. Lower back pain is your call to action, and, if you fail to respond, you will only be setting yourself and your health back. After all, lower back pain is the highest contributor to disability in the world.
Based on a recent Global Burden of Disease Study, lower back pain comes in second only to cancer as a leading cause of Australasian disease burden. Many healthcare experts have been taken by surprise by this soaring global burden of lower back pain. Reallocation of resources for research, treatment and prevention are now major catch-cries.
Now all this sounds pretty dire but all is not lost. About 80 per cent of people will experience that unmistakable ouch of lower back pain at some point in their lives. By no means will all of them will develop a disability as a result. The moral of the story is simply to be aware of protecting your lower back and taking swift action should it give you trouble.
Here are three common instigators and aggravators of lower back pain. If you feel you are ‘guilty’ of one or more of these, put yourself on notice to eliminate the impacts:
- Desk jockeying. Who would have thought you could do your back so much damage just by sitting on your bottom? That is because sitting puts 40 per cent more pressure on your spine than standing upright. Riding your desk for years can stiffen your muscles, weaken your discs and kick off a raft of lower back issues. Think premature degeneration of your joints and herniated discs for a start. Fight the good fight against lower back pain by keeping good posture front of mind. Get up and move at least once every 30 minutes. Visit the water cooler, pop to the toilet, go for a quick walk – whatever it takes to get moving.
- Holding onto your old mattress. Upgraded your mattress lately? If not, your lower back may be crying out for a new sleeping surface. Support, comfort and cushioning all fade out of an aging mattress, and lower back pain may be your signal that this is afoot. According to a recent study by The Lancet, a medium firm mattress may be your best bet at combating lower back pain.
- Stepping out in high heels. Ladies, those pretty pumps and sky-high stilettos are certainly packed with style — yet you could be a fashion victim in the worst sense of the word. Wearing high heels alters your whole posture so you tippy toe your way through the day (or evening).This stresses and strains your lower back while muscles and ligaments in your calves must work twice as hard to keep you upright.
Remember: when it comes to lower back pain, prevention is better than a cure and action is always better than grinning and bearing it.
‘The global burden of low back pain’. The Lancet, Global Burden of Disease Study 2010.
‘Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain: randomised, double-blind, controlled, multicentre trial’. The Lancet. Volume 362, No. 9396, p 1599–1604, 15 November 2003.