Be the one who never has back pain.

Ryan Todd Lloyd, DCBack, San Francisco Chiropractor, San Francisco Public Health

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The musculoskeletal system is the most important system in your body for your quality of life. No other system has such a profound impression on the way you live your life moment to moment.

You might rely on your heart to pump blood to your organs and your brain. You might rely on your lungs to oxygenate the blood and expel spent gases. You might rely on your kidneys, liver, spleen, and lymph system to get rid of toxins and metabolic wastes. You might rely on your liver, spleen and intestines to digest food so you can survive. But, most of these functions aren’t creating pain, taking up mindshare, or holding you back from living your life as a human should.

The greatest cause of death in the United States is cardiovascular disease, but you don’t have a pandemic of disability from it like you do with low back pain. Low back pain is the greatest cause of disability, the greatest cost of work-related injury expenses, and the greatest factor on everyone’s quality of life. Over your lifetime, most of the people you know, and probably you will have some sort of low back pain. At any given time, almost a quarter of everyone around you is suffering from back pain.

If you have a low back of your own, then it’s time to double down on your efforts to keep your low back pain away.

If you don’t work on the health of your low back, you won’t be able to drive for long distances. You won’t be able to run in a playground like a kid. You won’t be able to pick things up around the house independent of outside help. You won’t be able to play with your kids, or your grandkids. You won’t be able to pick up new recreational sports that allow you to enjoy life more. You won’t be able to squat to use the toilet.

Think about that.

Fortunately, you still have a functioning back, and you can strengthen it. You can mobilize it. You can stretch if you feel tight. You can eat an anti-inflammatory diet. You can do an anti-inflammatory fast. You may be able to do a plank, and if you can’t do a plank, you can probably do some variation of a plank and progress to something more challenging.

You see, the formula for low back success is this: keep your back moving well, and keep the muscles strong. Do this with the mental attitude that helps keep you pain free, and self aware, and you will get back pain a lot less than others.

Chiropractic care where we manipulate the joints in your low back is a form of mobilization, and it may be necessary for you, but there are other forms of mobilization that you can do at home. Here’s one: stand up and walk around. Walking is a natural activity for the low back, and when you walk, the forces from every step you take go from your foot to your pelvis and to your low back. It shifts in real time from one leg to the next. Shock is absorbed in your feet, ankles, knees, and sacroiliac joints before the shock from your steps reach your lumbar spine in your low back. Also with every step, the muscles in your legs and core are engaged and they are dynamically contracting and coordinating movement with every step.

Another idea: do some push-ups. Push-ups are a dynamic kind of plank that works your core as well as your arms. If you can’t do a push-up, then you ought to become the kind of person that can do one. Start on your knees with the “girl” push-ups, and work up your strength. You can get there; I know you can because we are all adaptable. If you can do a set of push-ups comfortably, then you can do some other variations on the push-up, like doing them on one foot. Doing a hand-clap. Doing some alternating shoulder touches. Pretty soon, your low back will be so engaged, that you will have forgotten about the pain.

Why do I say that you should strengthen your muscles to get rid of the pain? May studies show that exercise has a positive effect on back pain disability ratings. Rehab, in general, to any part of your body is done best with tension applied to stimulate growth. MRI studies of people with low back pain show muscle atrophy in the muscles of the back, and the muscles also look diseased and full of fatty infiltration if you have a low back study with an MRI for low back pain.

If you have a ton of money so you can afford caregivers, if you are content to live in chronic pain morning and night, and if you don’t mind being the one in your group who moves the slowest, then maybe you don’t need to do some self-care for your back. But if you want to be the one who’s 80 years old and still living independently, still using the bathroom on your own, still taking showers on your own, and still having youthful mental health, then you need to adopt a routine of low back exercises you will do for the rest of your life.

Now excuse me while I do some kettlebell swings.

Ryan Todd Lloyd, DC

I'm a chiropractor who specializes in correcting and relieving back and neck disorders. I have found that when you increase the mobility of your spine and joints with chiropractic care and follow up with this with improving muscle coordination with targeted exercises,then improving your function will also improve your pain.