Times have changed! If you don’t believe me, look at the percent of jobs that are being taken over by machines. They are pulling men and women off the work floor and either putting them in desks or letting them go. It’s sad but the evolution of work has played a major role in the high percentage of people fighting daily back pain. If you don’ believe me just ask your grand-paw.
Our economy is very much an increasing postindustrial movement. Think about it, we have less heavy labor, more automation and robots taking over our jobs. The desk jockie jobs that we do have now have taken the place of the hitting the streets and knocking on doors. If you look at the numbers though, work disability caused by back pain has gone up (McGill,4). The whole reasoning behind getting people off the field and into desks is that it will create a more static, safe environment. Less likely for people to get hurt which means less money coming out in health care. Why then are more and more people coming out and being treated for back pain? They are sitting more, less manuel labor and don’t require much bending and twisting. Thats the thing, the idea of less movement equals better backs is wrong. It couldn’t be any more wrong! This shows us that more modern manual labor work is actually better for your back then doing the opposite.
What about the guys who are bent over all day welding beams or running cable constantly using their backs to get the job done? Why do they have so much pain? Well, this is the other side of the spectrum. Any repeated movements in the same position over time will cause strain. The same with fixed unstable positions like sitting. Its a catch 22…or is it? The difference between todays “workers” and yesterdays is the amount of hustle. Yes, I said hustle. It’s one of my favorite words in the whole world. It’s a work ethic that goes beyond just doing your job or even just one profession. Studies have shown that the type of work done by the generations before us was never really the same thing. It consisted of so many different activities from lifting, twisting, throwing, riding to shoveling. It sounds like hard work but there was so much going on back then, for someone to have just one single job was not the most common situation. People worked! They had multiple jobs to support their families that stretch over a wide variety of professions. Unfortunately, the day of walking behind a mule, hand milking cows and delivering the newspaper on a bike are gone.
So what do we do?
Get a hobby: We get stuck in whats comfortable. We wake up, we work, we eat, we sleep and then repeat. Except for two days out of the week we may play pretty hard but thats it. We live weekend to weekend. By the time the weekend is hear our bodies are so stiff and weak that we end up hurting ourselves. One of the biggest things I enjoy doing is kayak fishing. We take our fishing kayaks loaded with gear out to main channels around bridges and islands and fish all day. A lot of these trips are miles worth of paddling in one day. Its brutal, yet I owe a lot of my core endurance I have now to these busy fishing seasons. I have to constantly be thinking about my stomach making sure it is contracted and not slouching or loading my lower back. I don’t always remember to focus on these things but it gets me out and gets me moving.
Divert your thinking: I am guilty of this myself. I am the only person in my office so I really don’t have anyone to get up and go talk to besides members and they are too busy working out to hear anything I have to say. So what do you do? Well in my specific situation I break up my day with small random exercises or stretches. I’ll go out to the floor hit a few pull ups and dips and walk back into the office. It’s not much but it keeps me from either standing or sitting for hours and hours. What about you? Can you take the stairs to the office above you and take a few minutes once you get back to do some desk stretching? By the time you get back, your legs will be warm so stretching would be a bit more productive during this short window of time. What about choosing to lift or carry something rather then finding the dolly or roller cart around your office. Use this time to learn to engage your core from your butt all the way around to your stomach. Try to learn what it truly feels like to contract your stomach. Plus as you walk you can practice lightly engaging your stomach to work on basic core endurance for every day use. There are endless possibilities you just have to focus your attention on what your stomach is doing.
Refrain from the “take it easy” mentality: When it comes to being active it looks different for everybody. Train for what you want to get out of life. If you love to run then run, if you love to lift then lift! A trap that is very easy to fall into when your going through back pain is that doing more is only going to make things worse. You need to stay at home lay on your back and wait for the pain to go away. WRONG. I get that there are some extreme cases of back injury where rest is the best medicine but so many physicians prescribe bed rest for people who have simple back pain. These people suffering from back pain need to be educated! Its the activity that brings relief! Movement gets fresh oxygenated blood pumping through your body. When there is a area that has inflammation you want that fresh blood getting cycled through it to bring healing. The more you sit or lay around the tighter and less mobile you get. You can’t afford that. Take it at your own pace but don’t get tricked into thinking that more inactivity brings healing. Get moving and take advantage of this time. Hit your back pain specific stretches right after and watch how fast you will be back on your feet!
Not everyone can just go out and start farming but there is always something you can start now that you haven’t done before. The key is finding something that requires a commitment of your ACTIVE time. Such as gardening, rocking climbing. kayaking, canoeing, Frisbee golf etc. All these things force you out of that comfortable chair and into positions that are going to help strengthen your body and get you mobile.
Thanks for reading!!