I’m Blaming the Olympics for My Back Pain
In a recent consultation with a patient he decided that the Olympic Games were the source of his fairly debilitating back pain. “I’m Blaming the Olympics for My Back Pain” was the quote.
Not something you hear every day. The most common quote we hear is: “I thought it would go away”. Blaming back problems on the Olympics isn’t really part of the Olympic spirit. In reality, his significantly increased back pain is probably associated with watching hours of Olympic glory slumped over the couch.
Given he has had issues in the past, you’d think he would know better than to watch TV with bad posture…but I guess he just got entranced by the ‘special’ commentary from Bruce McAvaney and the broad cast team.
Four hours and about 27 medals later, his back locked up and the muscles were tighter than a Jewish Bank Manager. To avoid some postural sin, let me help you side step the same mistakes during marathon TV sessions (when you are, perhaps, watching the Olympic marathon)… Here are some easy things he could’ve done, and you can do – while watching the Olympics.
Rule Number One: Frequent Rotation of Duties
What ever you do, don’t get stuck in one position for long periods. This is why so many truck drivers have back problems and disc injuries.
Being stuck in one position, or performing on particular type of duty, for many hours is the easiest way to upset your spine. It could be sitting, standing, walking or laying on the couch. It could be sitting at the computer, sitting at a work station, or leaning over a conveyor belt. Keep moving. Change your position regularly. Rotate your duties.
As for the Olympics, yelling at the athletes doesn’t really count as an active form of participation. Also, getting up for another pack of chips doesn’t really count as a rotation of duties either. Eating more is obviously not the solution to Olympic-related back pain. If you do have a back problem or spinal related pains you will have to rotate your duties at least every 20 minutes to half an hour. More frequently if required. Never spend the day on the couch! You will almost certainly have a flare-up.
Rule Number Two: Stay Neutral and Sit Properly
The anatomically ‘neutral’ position is when the trunk of the body is basically upright. The head and neck are in a straight line; neither in flexion or extension. Remember that the further forward from neutral your body is positioned, the greater the stress on the spine. Indeed the pressure on the discs of the lower back increases while sitting. (Bad news for the trucks). But the pressure on the disc increases dramatically when sitting and leaning (slouching) forward!!
So watch how you sit.
I’m not saying you have to watch TV all prim and proper like you’re having high tea with the Queen.
But you should:
- Make sure your low back is supported. Use those Crate & Barrel pillows for something more than mere decoration.
- Avoid sitting on the couch for too long. It’s so comfy, I know, but you’re more prone to just sinking in on the couch.
- Think about watching TV from an armchair-the key being something with two armrests. Then your arms can help “carry” your weight while you’re sitting.
- Change positions frequently. Better yet, get up every 10 to 15 minutes and do a little walk around the living room. Think of it as a track and field event.
Rule Number Three: Do Some Stretches
Really, what else are you doing while you watch TV? If you think you don’t have the time for daily stretches, step up your multi-tasking capabilities. You can definitely stretch while watching TV.
A couple of easy stretches:
Knee to Chest
- Start on your back.
- Gently pull one knee towards your chest, using your hands to hold your leg in the stretch.
- Hold 10 seconds. You should feel a stretch in your low back and hip.
- Switch legs and pull your other knee towards your chest, again holding 10 seconds.
- Repeat 3-5 times with each leg.
- Bring both legs to your chest, holding 10 seconds and repeating 3-5 times.
Lower Trunk Rotation
- Start on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- With your knees together, bring them to one side. Your feet should stay on the floor.
- Hold 3-5 seconds.
- Contract your abdominal muscles while moving your legs to the opposite side, again holding for 3-5 seconds
- Repeat 5-10 times on each side.
By taking good care of your spine, maybe you will be able to ignore the other main issue while watching the Olympians: being jealous of their athletic abilities. But that’s an emotional issue for another day.