Modern life, for most people, is increasingly sedentary. Instead of spending our days hunting and foraging, we spend most of our time hunched over a computer, locked in a seated position.
So it’s no wonder that back pain is no longer something that plagues just senior citizens. In fact, low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and affects an estimated 540 million people at any one time.
What causes these pains? One common belief is that a weak core leads to back pain, and stretching will relieve it. But Quantum Fitness trainer Raphael Lim thinks there are more factors at play.
Raphael likens exercise to writing. Doing the same few movements all the time (for example, only running) is like filling up your essay with the same few words. But when you build up with a more extensive vocabulary, it becomes easier to tell a good story. Similarly, if you find different ways to use your body, your movement vocabulary improves. That means you can start to do much more with it.
That’s where mobility comes in. Mobility means having both strength and flexibility. For example, flexibility means being able to do a full split. But only someone with mobility will have the strength to get out of that position without relying on their hands for support. Think of mobility as active, while flexibility is passive, says Raphael.
In a nutshell, it’s important to add more movement to your day. But if you’re looking for specific exercises, here are a few he recommends:
Find a pull-up bar and hang from it. Start with 10 to 30 seconds each time, and slowly increase that duration. This stretches your shoulder muscles and helps lengthen the spine.
Reverse the table-top position so that you’re facing the sky, then do 10 repetitions of straightening and relaxing your back. On the last repetition, hold the straight-back position for 10 seconds. Make sure your knees are in line with your feet, and your shoulders are in line with your wrists.
This position is great for your ankles, knees, hips and spine. Ideally, your spine should be almost upright in this position, and it should be comfortable enough to be a resting position. Try doing this for a minute a day, and slowly increase that duration.
Maybe, and maybe not. It’s hard to say without a thorough assessment, since each individual’s body is different and the causes of our back aches are different. But these exercises can be additional tools that help you work towards relieving your back pain, or at least halt its progression if you do them diligently. Either way, doing them certainly won’t hurt!