Are you one of the many people with lower back pain after working from home? Changes in your posture and lifestyle can cause problems for your lower back curve.
Find out more about how your lower back curve impacts your back pain. Learn ways to reduce pain from home and keep your spine in good shape.
What Shape Is a Healthy Spine?
The spine runs from the base of the skull to the pelvis. A healthy adult spine should have a gentle S-shaped curve when you look at it from the side.
The spine has four curves. The neck and low back should have forward curves (lordosis). The mid-back/chest region and the hip area should have backward curves (kyphosis).
Babies are born with a C-shaped curve. The S-shape starts to develop when a child starts to crawl. As children pick up their heads, the neck curvature develops.
The spine fully takes on its role of supporting the body when children start walking.
Why Is the Spine Curved and Not Straight?
Proper spinal curvature creates support and flexibility. The curves help your spine absorb shocks. They also help distribute your weight.
Spinal curves let you keep the correct posture while you stand or sit. Ideal posture has your head, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles lined up vertically.
Good posture gives you better balance. You have more muscular stability and muscular strength. You also have a wider range of motion.
Spinal curvature reduces the pressure between your discs. If your spine were straight, the weight of each vertebra would fully rest on the one below it. With a curved spine, each vertebra only carries part of the weight.
Importance of Your Lower Back Curve
The curvature of your lower back is a primary factor in lower back pain. The technical names for this curve are the lordotic curve of the lumbar spine or lumbar lordosis.
Your lower back curve helps your buttocks and hips move correctly. It lets you fully contract your gluteal muscles.
Flattening this curve by tipping your pelvis forward means that you can't fully activate your glutes. Your lower back has to absorb more weight and pressure, which results in back pain.
What's the Best Angle for Your Lower Back Curve?
Despite the importance of having correct lumbar lordosis, determining what the best angle is can be difficult. Angles vary from person to person, and researchers haven't established a normal range.
The angle between your spine and your pelvis determines the amount of lower back curve you need. This measurement is called pelvic incidence. The lordotic curve of your lumbar spine should match your pelvic incidence within 11º.
Doctors can use an x-ray to measure your lower back curve. However, many factors make it difficult to calculate your lumbar angle with an x-ray. Some of the complicating factors are:
- Positioning during the x-ray test
- Level of athleticism
- Body mass index
Nevertheless, doctors have several ways to interpret lumbar x-rays to determine the degree of the spinal curve you have.
The most accurate is usually to take the x-ray in profile. After that, the doctor will typically determine the Cobb angle of the lumbar curve.
The Cobb angle was invented to track scoliosis progress to produce varying results for the lumbar curve. It remains a common technique, however.
Spinal Curves and Posture
Problems with your posture are related to problems with the curvature of your spine. Some common issues are associated with the lower back curve.
Too much lower back curvature is called swayback. When your pelvis tips forward too far, your spine compensates by exaggerating the curvature of your lower back. This can increase your risk of back and hip injuries. It can also lead to pain and muscle strains.
A flat back means you don't have enough lower back curvature. A flat back can make it difficult to stand for long periods. You have pain in your neck, upper back, and shoulders as they try to compensate.
Reduced lumbar lordosis is a risk factor for pelvic organ prolapse. Organs like the uterus, bowel, or bladder slip down from their normal position. Other consequences of a flat back are pinched nerves and reduced blood flow.
Improving Your Lower Back Curve
Posture habits, conditioning, and muscle imbalances are often the cause of lower back pain. Exercises can improve your lower back curve. You can strengthen the muscles, improve flexibility, and increase your range of motion. You can also reduce pain.
If your pelvis is tilted forward, your hip muscles get tight. Tight iliopsoas muscles cause excessive lower back curvature. Stretching these muscles increases flexibility and makes it easier to hold a better low back position.
Stretching your back increases mobility in your pelvis. This helps your lower back return to a normal amount of curvature.
Stretching your hamstrings is another way to restore proper alignment to your lumbar spine.
Strengthening your abdominal muscles helps tilt your pelvis backward. This promotes normal curvature of the lumbar spine. It reduces the strain on your lower back.
Strengthening your gluteus maximus also promotes good pelvic positioning. Your glutes work with your abs to tilt the pelvis back into a healthy position.
Importance of the Interspinales and Multifidus Muscles
To fully address your lower back curve problems, you need to strengthen your interspinal and multifidus muscles.
The interspinal muscles are small, paired muscles that run between the spinous processes of your vertebrae.
The multifidus muscle is a group of short muscles. It fills the groove on both sides of the spinous processes. These muscles help you to extend, tilt and twist your back. Also, they have an important role in stabilizing your vertebrae when your spine moves. Exercises for these small, deep back muscles should focus on proper mechanics and effective locomotion.
Practicing Spinal Fitness
Finding the right exercises to improve your lower back curve and relieve back pain can be challenging. The Creatrix line of Spinal Fitness equipment can help.
The Neck Shaper works to strengthen your interspinal and multifidus muscles. The exercises help you get the mechanical advantage with an S-shaped spine.
Check out the Neck Shaper today, and keep watching our site for new product releases.