The relationship between spine flexion during lifting and low back pain
We hear it all the time. “Keep your back straight. Use your legs”. But do these popular advice really impact the pain we sustain?
Back pain is a worldwide issue, but there is so little evidence about what truly helps with its management.
A recent study reviewed the risks of keeping your back flexed when lifting items. This review found that there was no relationship between greater lumbar spine flexion during lifting and low back pain onset or persistence.
These are interesting results, even when consider the inherent limitations associated. Lifting in a laboratory setting might be quite different from lifting in an uncontrolled environment, or with heavier loads.
In the case of back pain, avoiding flexion might result in an increase of fear and as consequence, a decrease in physical activity. Most national guidelines about back pain management do not include this movement avoidance pattern.
A healthy, normal spine is a stable structure that should be able to cope with a variety of situations. When you are going through an episode of acute back pain, it is perfectly normal to avoid what triggers pain, and temporarily adapt your movements and activities to your new tolerable baseline.
From a biomechanical point of view it seems more logical to carry the heavy item as close to your body as possible - e.g. hug the box to your chest, instead of lifting it with your extended arms. Getting stronger through regular physical activity will also increase the amount of load your spine can tolerate before pain even triggers. One more of the many benefits of staying as active as possible!
Here at Hong Kong Sports Clinic, we can help you understand how to train in the most efficient way. Which muscles you need to strengthen, which you need to stretch. And how to perform the different exercises efficiently.
Stay in touch for more advice on back pain.