Oh how my back does ache...
June 23, 2006 5:58 PM   Subscribe

There's sore back muscles, and then there's just back 'ache'. Does anyone know what this is and how it can be prevented?

So I am specifically looking for help with the 'aching' phenomenon and not 'pain' such as muscle soreness or sciatica or what have you.
I dont have good posture. My back aches after doing light cleaning, or when I try to sit up straight for very long without using a back rest. The ache is right in the center of my spine.
I have had a lot more muscle mass on my back than I currently do but that didnt help with the aching.
posted by dino terror to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like improving your posture, and the way you carry your body and keep it aligned, is the main issue you're talking about. Pilates and yoga are both popular ways of helping with this. They'll also help develop your core muscles, which can take some of the strain off your back.

(I actually complained this morning that yoga has now made it uncomfortable for me to slouch. Damned spine lengthening!)
posted by occhiblu at 6:05 PM on June 23, 2006

And for what it's worth, yoga was actually developed to help people be more comfortable sitting (for meditation) for long periods of time.
posted by occhiblu at 6:07 PM on June 23, 2006

Better Posture 101 from Yoga Journal, and now I will stop with the serial posting.
posted by occhiblu at 6:11 PM on June 23, 2006

The thing is, I thought the conventional wisdom that once you reach adulthood your spine is kind of stuck the way it is... I never quite bought it, I mean a spine can get worse, why cant it get better...
posted by dino terror at 6:12 PM on June 23, 2006

Your spine is in NO WAY stuck where it is. You can always improve your posture, improve your alignment, and improve the muscular strength and structure that supports it all.
posted by occhiblu at 6:16 PM on June 23, 2006

Well thats encouraging, thanks! In the meantime while I work on strengthening Id kill to be able to put on one of those braces to help take some weight off my spine, but I have a feeling those should only be used under supervision and whatnot...
posted by dino terror at 6:21 PM on June 23, 2006

Pain comes from the disks, and also the muscles around them. Your back muscles will tighten, spasm even, to protect the disk when your body feels pain around it. That tension in the muscles can be very painful itself, the dull ache kind of pain. The key to back health is keeping your trunk core muscles fit. They will support and protect the back naturally and without pain if they are fit. If you are not active in sports so as to accomplish this naturally, then do some crunches. However, you want to emphasize the lower trunk muscles. Keep your back flat on the floor, actively press it down and concentrate on keeping your hips rotated to keep it there, and then perhaps pivot your knees 15 degrees to either side. In a true crunch you don't actually move upwards very far like a sit-up, you come up off of the floor slightly, hold it a half second and then back down. Meanwhile, stand up straight and keep those hips rotated so as to tuck in the tummy and keep the lower back straight. Practice proper posture while sitting. Don't sit for more than twenty minutes without standing, if only for a minute or so.
posted by caddis at 6:32 PM on June 23, 2006

There are also some great chairs you can buy that take the pressure off certain points in your back. If you spend much of your day seated, you don't realize how much strain your back takes. Look for ergonomic chairs, or at least support pads to add to your existing chair.
posted by galimatias at 6:33 PM on June 23, 2006

and yes, yoga and pilates are excellent core muscle strengthening regimes
posted by caddis at 6:34 PM on June 23, 2006

or regimens - so who's the serial poster now? spell check really needs to check what you meant to say, not just what is in the dictionary.
posted by caddis at 6:38 PM on June 23, 2006

/agrees with caddis


The Mayo Clinic has a great section about core strengthening exercises.
posted by sciatica at 6:48 PM on June 23, 2006

Heh. About three-quarters of those Mayo positions are yoga poses.
posted by occhiblu at 6:56 PM on June 23, 2006

I have had a lot more muscle mass on my back than I currently do but that didnt help with the aching.

It might actually be hurting rather than helping.

I'd suggest doing abdominal exercises, because what could be happening is that your back muscles are "winning" the tug-of-war between your abs and your back muscles in the battle for your spine. Even with bad posture (which certainly isn't helping matters), your back muscles tend to get a far better workout than your abdominal muscles. Nine times out of ten, lower back pain is because of poor abdominal strength.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:31 PM on June 23, 2006

How much water do you drink? Just a random suggestion, but when I am dehydrated, my lower back gets a dull, painful ache. Once I'm properly hydrated (64+ ozs a day) it goes away. Good luck figuring it out :)
posted by eileen at 7:40 PM on June 23, 2006

Actually, your back has problems due to the weakness of your lower back - not it's strength. It's not a abdominal balance problem...

It's that the muscules of the back aren't able to be directly strenghtened (unlike say, the bicep). It requires isolation.

Tthe inventor of nautilus (in 1988) created a tool that permitted the isolation and strenghtening of the lumbar sacral musculature.

Most physicans to this day, aren't familiar with it. Some of the research

I ran a therapy facility that utilized this tool; and the results were pretty powerful. Worth checking out. It's not that the only modality ought to be this - it's part of a general physical therapy program for the lower back - stretching, heat, ice, and postural practice as well.
posted by filmgeek at 7:45 PM on June 23, 2006

how about valium??? if you dont have any try back stretches in the morning and afternoon. Im not sure if its a myth but i sometimes sleep on the floor and i feel great in the morning.. maybe im just an x man. Something more adventurous would involve going to the gym 3 times a week. If you dont already go you will be surpised at how much of a difference it can make.
posted by thegeezer3 at 7:45 PM on June 23, 2006

I get backache due to hormones (I'm a woman). Supposedly there are some times when your pelvic and other ligaments are looser than others and then you are more prone to back and knee pain due to changes in gait and general sloppy joint-ness. I know in horses and dogs they treat patellar slipping with estrogenic compounds in both males and females quite successfully which also clears up associated backpain but I don't really know the mechanics of how it all works.

My lower back pain is helped quite a bit by doing lots of exercises to make the muscles in my legs and hips stronger but it still hurts a few days a month and there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it except take Advil and try not to do any major exercise those days.
posted by fshgrl at 8:00 PM on June 23, 2006

sit on a stability ball instead of a chair when you are surfing the net. It's somewhat painful for the first few days - probably because your body just isn't used to using those lower back muscles to support you when sitting - but after that it's not too bad, you should be able to go about 20 minutes at a time without feeling pain but that's a good thing since you really shouldn't be sitting for periods much longer than that without taking a break and walking around anyway. Also, it's pretty easy to do a situp on a stability ball which will further strengthen your back muscles.
posted by any major dude at 6:15 PM on June 24, 2006

Sometimes one group of muscles (or a muscle) gets hurt somehow

I do not believe this happens. I think what you are experiencing is the tensing of the muscles to protect the disk. Either way, ibuprofen still works. Chiropractors are quacks, IMHO, but many people do get at least short term results from them and most GPs really don't know backs very well. You would be better off with a phyisical therapist. Overall they may not have the training of a physician, but in this area they are better trained. Of course, you will need to get a prescription for PT from a physician.
posted by caddis at 4:27 AM on June 25, 2006

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