Back in Focus - Paying attention to how you treat your back can help prevent a big pain

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Back Pain is a topic that Kory Lambert knows well. The onset of back pain most frequently occurs between 30 and 60 years old, and can be triggered by a variety of ailments — muscle strains, herniated discs, accidents and degenerative diseases, just to name a few. Smoking and being overweight can also cause back pain, and hormones may play a role.

But can you predict your chances of experiencing back pain? Lambert, a physical therapist with Adena Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, says yes.

Persons among a population with a Body Mass Index (BMI) within the normal range have a 2.8 percent risk of developing back pain at some point in their lives, according to Lambert. That risk increases exponentially with an increased BMI. The classification and risks are as follows:

  • Overweight: 5.2 percent
  • Obese: 7.7 percent
  • Morbid: 11.6 percent

Carrying around extra weight makes you more vulnerable to injury. As your weight increases, it changes the biomechanics and natural alignment of your spinal column. A larger belly increases the curvature of your lower back’s C-curve. Consequently, that changes the lengths of muscles around the spine and puts additional strain on the spine, as well as the hips and knees, making those joints more susceptible to injury. According to Lambert, being overweight is waiting for the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

“That phrase is so literal in this topic,” he says. “You might be overweight and not feeling any pain… currently. But it’s likely going to hit you. The question is, when?”


Beyond the obvious – namely, stopping smoking and losing weight in a sustained, healthy manner – there are other things you can do to lower your risk of developing back pain.

Mind Your Seat. Sitting occupations tend to decrease the spine’s lower C-curve causing flexion-based tissue strain. In addition to a good, supportive chair, get up every 45 minutes and walk around the office. Try performing gentle, hands-on-the-hips backbends to counteract the C-curve slump created while sitting.

Regular Activity. Look for small ways to incorporate movement into your daily routine. Take the stairs, park further away from the store or office. Work on a program of core strengthening to build a better foundation.

Opposite Day, Every Day. Counter-balance repetitive forces of any regular activity. Golfers should work on flexibility by swinging clubs the opposite direction of their natural swing (this does not mean you should actually play golf this way). If you sit often, stand and move. If you’re bent over, do a backbend stretch. Lambert’s advice is to seek symmetry in movement: right-left, front-back.

Lift Properly. Avoid straining your back by using a wide base of support and keeping the weight as close to your body as possible. Try and maintain your spine’s natural S-curve. “Stick your butt out and maintain abdominal support,” says Lambert.

If you do injure yourself or develop back pain, seek therapy quickly. Ideally, you should take a holistic approach to healing with a therapeutic path to rehabilitation, not just a quick fix.

Adena Health System offers a variety of physical therapy services and specialties across its multiple locations throughout south central Ohio.