Thirty-one million Americans suffer from back pain, and that means there are millions of pseudo experts. Unfortunately, listening to every “specialist” on the Internet can cause more problems than it solves. The problem is that back pain misconceptions can quickly get out of hand and become accepted beliefs.
To help protect you from the fear mongering and confusion, we’re debunking the five greatest back pain myths: moving makes it worse, exercise should be avoided, scans reveal all, back pain happens without warning, and pain equals damage. Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and that means you need to be armed with the facts if you want to move on with your life.
Myth 1: “Moving will make my back pain far worse!”
Wrong! Movement is not the enemy of back pain. In fact, in many instances, bed rest and a fear of twisting, bending, and moving can actually make your back pain worse. It’s understandable. When movement causes pain, why would you want to move anymore? But lying down can work against you and even slow your healing.
The Annals of Internal Medicine published a study that reviewed 134 workers with back pain. The researchers found that those who kept moving recovered in just 58 days compared to the 87 days of recovery it took for sedentary individuals.
Myth 2: “I shouldn’t exercise, and I definitely shouldn’t weight train!”
If bed rest isn’t the best option, neither is exercise avoidance. Yes, you should reduce your normal activities, but that doesn’t mean you should stop hitting the gym. In fact, you should try and stay as active as possible.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should start doing 100lb squats immediately. Instead, you should focus on exercising in a controlled, gradual, and progressive manner. According to the Mayo Clinic, just 15 minutes of exercise a day can help stretch and strengthen your back and supporting muscles to prevent further pain and promote recovery.
Myth 3: “A scan will reveal all of my back problems!”
In some cases, technology doesn’t hold all the answers. While a back scan can often reveal what’s going on, it’s not always that simple. Back pain is often a complex and multi-factorial issue, meaning that a spinal diagnosis isn’t straightforward.
To uncover what’s causing your back pain and what’s necessary for recovery requires a full clinical diagnostic process. This typically requires three steps:
A review of your medical history. To get to the root of your back pain, your physician should spend time asking you a series of questions about your symptoms, history, activities, positions, treatments, and more.
A physical examination. A competent physician should test for nerve function, muscle strength, pain in certain positions, and more.
Diagnostic testing. Only after a physician has reviewed your medical history and given you a physical examination is a scan appropriate. Everything from an X-ray to CT scans and MRI scans can be appropriate to assess certain conditions.
Myth 4: “My back pain had no warning!”
Yes, it’s true that your back can suddenly “go out,” but it never happens out of the blue. The truth is that your back pain always has a cause whether it’s poor conditioning, weight gain, incorrect posture, or bad lifting mechanics.
The reality for many individuals is that back pain is a result of a cumulative effect from simple movements. Sudden back pain can also be a sign of an underlying degenerative process or neurological issues. There’s always a cause for back pain and seeing a physician is your best chance for appropriate diagnosis and recovery.
Myth 5: “If my back hurts that means that there’s damage to my spine!”
Back pain doesn’t always equal injury. While, in the past, that’s been the established view, recent research has revealed that back pain can, and often is, a holistic issue.
There are many physical, psychological, and even social factors that can lead to back pain. In fact, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke anxiety and depression can even influence back pain. The only way to diagnose the cause of your back pain and to determine if your spine suffers from damage is to visit your health care provider.
Now that you know the truth about back pain, the next step is to do something to relieve your back pain and get immediate results. That’s where Upright can help. In just 15 minutes a day, you can train your body to have better posture for decreased back pain and increased productivity.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/backpain/detail_backpain.htm
Mayo Clinic; http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/multimedia/back-pain/sls-20076265
Annals of Internal Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14734329
American Chiropractic Associations; http://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics
Back pain is so common that unfortunately many of us will experience it in our lifetime. There are a number of elements that can lead to back pain, even a few that you might not even be aware of that are causing your aches and pains. Do you work in an office? If your office is not very ergonomically inclined, even the chair at your desk can be leading to mild back pain throughout your day.
Generally speaking, maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise can be an important factor, but some might even be surprised that the most simple preventative fix of all, is actually just practicing good posture. Practicing good posture can make a world of a difference when dealing with back pain, and the first steps towards relief are simply being aware of your own posture when sitting down for long periods of time, like at the office for example. The benefits of good posture are not just preventing and aiding in the relief of back pain, but it also can make you look better too.
When thinking about posture, it might be easy to think that all you need to do is stand up straight, but posture is really all about the way in which you hold your body when sitting down at work, standing for long periods of time, heavy lifting or really any repeated task involving body movement. Luckily, you too can reap the benefits of good posture and reduce painful backaches with some helpful methods to try at home or the office yourself.
One of the most simple exercises to try is referred to as imagery. This takes literally imagining a straight line from the floor to your head, and attempting to recreate that with your back, especially when sitting down. You should be aiming to have your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned during this practice. Stretch your head upwards, increasing the space between your rib-cage and pelvis. Utilizing this easy exercise will quickly allow you to experience some of the benefits of good posture without setting aside too much extra time.
This next exercise can be completed while sitting in a chair. The shoulder blade squeeze helps to stretch out different parts on the back. You will need to first sit up straight in a chair, and rest your hands on your thighs. Next, you will need to keep your shoulders down and your chin level, looking straight ahead. From there you can slowly move your shoulders back, squeezing the shoulder blades together. You will want to hold this for 4-5 seconds each, 3-4 times, with a short relaxation in between each round.
From there, you will want to next stretch the upper body, using another really simple to do exercise. First, you will want to stand facing a corner, with your arms above your head and your hands flat on the walls (one on each). Keep your elbows at shoulder height. Next, place one foot ahead of the other, and then bend your forward knee, and exhale as you lean your body towards the corner. Be sure to keep your back straight and your head and chest upward. You will feel your chest stretching. Hold this position for about 20-30 seconds and release.
A final helpful stretch is the arm across chest stretch. First, you will want to raise your right arm to about shoulder level in front of you. Bend your elbow keeping your forearm parallel to the floor. Hold your right elbow with your left hand, then slowly pull it across your chest, which should give the feeling of a nice stretch in the upper arm and right side of the body. Hold that pose for 20-30 seconds, release, and then repeat on the other side of your body. Try three rounds of this total, and you will soon be on your way to experiencing the benefits of good posture.
These helpful tips will relieve minor back pain, but ultimately investing in ergonomic equipment will help prevent some of the pain before it has the chance to start. Utilizing the Upright Posture Trainer will let you experience first hand the potential benefits of good posture. The trainer is a wearable technology that trains you to improve your posture over time. The way it works, is that it attaches to your back with a soft piece of velcro, and vibrates whenever you slouch. The device only needs to be worn for anywhere between 5 minutes and one hour daily to get the full benefits. This simple to use device has a training program that will have the user feeling the benefits of good posture in no time at all.
Nearly half the adult labor force suffers from some form of chronic pain and 40% of Americans experience head, back or neck pain which negatively impacts their enjoyment of life and ability to work[i]. The estimated cost to US employers from lost working days and reduced productivity for back pain alone is over $7 billion per year and over 70% of these costs come from exacerbation of existing problems.[ii]
Fortunately employers can significantly reduce the costs of treatment, insurance and reduced productivity by empowering their workforce. Through educational programs to build greater awareness and the provision of appropriate tools or training employers can foster cost-saving and life-saving behavioral changes. Employees benefit from being supported to prioritize their physical wellbeing and healthier staff provide huge long term financial benefits and immediate cost savings.
Cause for Concern
Even the mildest pain reduces our ability to concentrate and focus on everyday tasks – severely impacting the ability to perform in the workplace. Living with chronic pain gradually wears down motivation and is correlated with an increased risk of depression, stress, fatigue and reduced self-esteem.[iii]
Repetitive tasks, such as working on an assembly line, and heavy lifting used to be the most common causes of back pain or injury on the workplace. However, the increased prevalence of desk based jobs and our modern sedentary lifestyle is creating an alarming increase in back problems. Lack of exercise, poor posture and long periods sitting still has reduced the spinal health of the nation and over 10% of the population experience lower back pain (double the incidence of the previous decade).[iv]
Inactive and Ineffective
‘Sitting Disease’ is a very modern phenomenon which is increasing at epidemic rates – we spend on average 7.7 hours sitting every single day[v]. The human body was simply not designed to stay so still and the health implications of inactivity are starting to become apparent. Heart disease, diabetes and even premature death have all been linked to a lack of physical activity[vi]. Jobs that require long hours sitting at a desk, or other sedentary position, combined with hours spent in front of the TV are negatively impacting physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Physical activity assists the transport toxins out of the body, supporting the immune system
Movement causes the release of hormones which improve mood and aid longevity
Lack of movement is associated with lethargy and reduced energy – which many use as an excuse to justify inactivity
Sitting still has a negative impact on metabolism increasing the risk of diabetes and contributing to weight gain
Simply standing up burns 30% more calories than sitting down!
While exercise is hugely beneficial health it is only part of the solution – sitting still all day during the week is not outweighed by running a marathon at the weekend. To avoid the potential health risks of inactivity at work employers need to develop long term strategies to support their staff. There are a wide range of options that can be considered to prevent inactivity, increase movement, strengthen muscles and prevent problems.
From a change management perspective employers need to raise awareness of the problems associated with inactivity before they can expect employees to take action. Most people have no idea of the severity and likelihood of back problems and negative health outcomes from simply sitting still. Corporate Wellbeing Campaigns often miss this vital step in implementation – if you develop and nurture an awareness of the problems the desire to change comes from within.
To help staff make meaningful changes employers need to support a variety of workplace adaptions, including:
Standing Desks – these allow employees to stand while using the computer, draw, design or any other activity which requires a desk. This workplace adaption is increasing in popularity, however, is not a new invention and was reportedly used by Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. They take a little time to get used to (for example finding the correct posture and rebuilding the muscles needed to stand upright) but provide a safe and effective way to get the job done without the risks associated with sitting still.
Treadmill desks – a little more extreme these allow people to actively move and walk, or even run, while working. They take a high degree of concentration and definitely some practice and are more suited to hands-free activities like talking on the phone. Research has shown using this style of ‘desk’ for periods during the day improves physical and psychological wellbeing without impacting performance.[vii]
Standing Space – there are many tasks typically performed while sitting at a desk which don’t actually require the desk (for example: short meetings, talking on the phone, reading etc.) By providing employees with alternative spaces they can chose to stand, or even walk around, while working. Creating pleasant and supportive environments is critical to encouraging change – a nicely lit, ventilated, bright space full of oxygenating plants will inspire employees to use it.
Movement Breaks – one of the most effective ways to prevent injury is to take regular movement breaks. Simply standing and stretching for a few minutes has a huge impact. Employees often find it difficult to take breaks, especially when facing tight deadlines, so need active encouragement to stop working for a few minutes every hour. In addition to the physical benefits a quick stretch or brief walk helps wake-up the mind and enhances mental clarity. This behavioral change can be stimulated with: desktop timers which remind people to take a break; outdoor spaces to get some fresh air (away from dedicated smoking spaces!); marked ‘walking routes’ around buildings; incentives for employees who do take breaks.
Physical Assessments – many people are not in tune with their own physical requirements and need individual attention and assessments to identify potential problems. The mind is very ‘happy’ ignoring big issues and gentle advice – given with the right intention – can motivate individuals to look at personal health challenges. Often people become overwhelmed when faced with significant health problems, such as being very overweight, and greatly appreciate individual attention and a joint plan of action.
Tools and Training – the freedom to work comfortably requires the provision of appropriate equipment and knowledge. Blue tooth headsets, postural supports, correctly sized desks and chairs are all effective in practically supporting staff. Empowering employees should also include training, specific to the job and a general understanding of how to enhance spinal musculature and sit correctly to prevent problems later in life. The provision of effective resources also communicates an organizations genuine dedication to employee well being.
Anti-aging products generate almost $200 billion annually worldwide, yet most of their benefits are purely cosmetic. However, not only can bad posture add years to your appearance, it can accelerate many of the physical problems that come with aging. Here are some of the reasons why you may want to make your posture a priority from now on.
Bad posture makes you look old…and fat.
Standing up straight, with your head held high, pulls your belly in naturally. Slumping over will cause rolls of fat to appear on your upper abdomen, and that’s not all. Janice Novak, author of Posture, Get it Straight notes that “…when you are slouched over, your internal organs have nowhere to go but down and out—you immediately look fatter.”
Additionally, you can literally become hunchbacked. Building up fat to protect the spine is how your body alleviates the stress of misalignment. The result is a hump on your upper back.
Bowel movements can become an issue.
In any diagram of the human body’s internal organs, you will notice that they are shown in a body that is standing upright. So, if you stop to think about it, slouching will definitely affect their placement. Unsurprisingly, that will in turn negatively affect their function.
Significantly arching your spine can cause your intestines to sag. This often leads to constipation.
Long-term bad posture can result in muscle distortion that affects your balance.
For every muscle group working in one way, there is a muscle group working in the opposite way. These counteracting groups are called agonist and antagonist muscles. Poor posture sometimes means that you are constantly working one group without the opposing muscles getting the equal amount of exercise they are supposed to have.
The result is often some muscles being stretched longer than they are meant to be, while others are being excessively shortened or tightened. Such distortion can cause decreased balance and range of motion.
Where did those aching joints come from?
Our bodies are miracles of engineering. But, simply put, they are meant to work at peak efficiency in an upright position. Our joints are given the amount of protective tissue they need according to the amount of load bearing they are expected to experience. A misaligned spine distributes weight improperly, causing some joints to bear more weight than they were meant to.
The areas most commonly affected by this misalignment are the knees, spine and shoulders. So if your posture is too bad, for too long, you may find yourself with the aching joints that would not be expected until much later in life.
What’s the solution?
It’s challenging enough to try and slow down the natural aging process, so you probably don’t want to hasten it unnecessarily. The problem is, breaking the habit of a lifetime can be really difficult. It means entirely retraining yourself, and learning good posture is no different.
However, reacting to the gentle vibrations of the UPRIGHT is actually involuntary. That means UPRIGHT’s method of training almost completely subconscious, so you barely even have to think about it. Never has breaking a lifelong bad habit been easier, or faster.
The beauty of your device is it trains and forces one to hold and maintain a lordotic “C” shaped concave curve. For the health of the nerves in the neck and lower back that curve is of paramount importance. The spine should be flexible and pliable but always return to that shape. When it is flexed forwards repeatedly and excessively it over-stretches the ligaments and disc fibers until they ultimately become “threadbare” and when they reach a “tipping point” – they will fail…disc bulges, nerve impingement
There’s no better proof of this than my lower back which has been a nightmare for 4 years (and, btw, I get adjusted constantly…), and after 2-3 weeks with the Upright – not a single bit of pain.
“I have been using the Upright device for a few weeks now. I mostly use the device while studying at my desk and during class.
I have found that it helps me stay focused at my desk for longer periods of time.
Knowing there is something monitoring my posture helps to keep me sitting longer because I want to see how long I can keep an upright posture. While studying, I have found whenever I become frustrated, tired, or when my mind begins to wander I slouch. The UPRIGHT then vibrates and I become aware of these feelings and thoughts, and can quickly correct them.
“While using the UPRIGHT device I realized how much a truly do slouch on a regular basis. The vibration it uses truly is a great reminder to sit up straight. I found myself sitting up while wearing it out of fear the device would alert me.
After using upright I noticed myself slouching in all sorts of different situations and the one I noticed the most was while I was at the gym. The gym has mirrors all around so I could see myself almost anywhere I turned. While resting in between sets I could see myself slouching in the mirror.
When I would adjust my posture I noticed I not only looked better, I felt much better as well.
When I came across UPRIGHT for the first time, I immediately recognized its potential as a biofeedback training device.
While all the traditional advantages of using biofeedback were clear, I also saw the advantage of UPRIGHT being a wearable device, opening a wide range of possibilities that a normal biofeedback device cannot provide.
We began using UPRIGHT, the first wearable biofeedback rehabilitation device, in our practice as a tool to improve posture. We started with patients with pronounced postural disorders such as kyphosis, scoliosis, as well as patients experiencing muscle weakness due to neurovascular diseases such as MS, and patients with walking and balance difficulties due to Parkinson’s. In all of these cases, we believed that patients would substantially benefit from using UPRIGHT.