Healthier Carrying - Get Free Ab Exercise and Stop Pain
The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Healthier Carrying - Get Free Ab Exercise and Stop Pain

Do you overly arch your lower back when you carry things in front of you, as in the photo at left? Arching your lower back and leaning back to carry anterior loads is common source of pressure and loading on your lower back, whether you are carrying a dog, a chair, a baby in arms, a child on your hip, packages, or grocery bags. It is the same contributor to the mystery back pain from carrying backpacks, explained in the previous post, and after long standing, walking, and running explained in Fixing the Commonest Source of Mystery Lower Back Pain.

Look at the photo, at left.

1. The upper arrow shows how her upper body is tilting backward instead of being straight and upright from mid-hip to shoulder.

2. The lower arrow shows how the hip is tilting forward in front and sticking out in back, instead of being vertical from mid-hip to the top of the leg bone.

3. Between the two arrows, her lower back is overly-arched and pinched. There is supposed to be a small inward curve, not a large one, pinched back like bending a drinking straw.

Leaning back offsets the weight and makes things easier to carry. The reason it is easier is that you shift the weight of the load away from your arm and torso muscles onto your lower back. This squashes your lower back under the weight of your upper body and the things you carry as it pinches backward.

Leaning back makes a swayback - right-hand figure in drawing. It is one of several overly arched slouching postures that are a common source of lower back pain. Pain from slouching keeps coming back, even after pills and treatments. The reason the pain keeps coming back is that you haven't stopped the cause. In the right-hand drawing, the hip is neutral, but the upper body leans back, producing a swayback. The photo above is even worse - the hip tips forward too, a second kind of swayback. In my work I have identified three kinds of swayback slouches (hyperlordosis - explained in other articles here on Fitness Fixer). All are just bad postures, easy to fix by standing and moving in neutral spine instead.

Leaning the upper body backward and/or tilting the hip forward when holding a load is common during standing, walking, running, reaching and carrying around the house, and while exercising. It is not necessary to slouch to offset the weight. Let your muscles do that for you, not your aching lower spine.

To stop the pain:

  • Stop the unhealthy overarching.
  • Stand straight to carry loads, shown in the left-drawing above, described in the previous post and If Better Abdominal Muscles Are Your New Year's Resolution, Try This.
  • To feel reducing the lower spine arch and getting the upper body more upright, stand with your back against a wall. Touch heels, backside, and upper back to the wall. See if you have a large space between lower back and the wall, or if you have to increase the space to bring your shoulders and head to straight position. Press the lower back space lightly, gently, toward (not touching) the wall to feel how to reduce a too-large arch. If you do it right, pain should stop right then. Short movie of this on - Fast Fitness - How to Feel Change to Neutral Spine.
  • Don't tighten abdominal or backside muscles. Tightening is not how to move your spine - see Using Abdominal Muscles is Not Tightening or Pressing Navel to Spine.
  • Click the label "neutral spine" (and other labels that interest you) for more on each topic.

The muscles that pull your spine forward to neutral are your abdominal muscles. You get free, built-in exercise for your abdominal and back muscles in the way they are supposed to work for real life. That is called functional exercise.

Standing neutral when carrying things without overarching the lower back is better, healthier, and more functional exercise than lying on the floor and rounding your back to do crunches.

Use the arch-reducing technique in this article to learn neutral spine for a healthier back and built-in back and abdominal muscle exercise all the time during everything you do.


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Drawings of Backman!™ © copyright Dr. Jolie Bookspan from the book The Ab Revolution™ No More Crunches No More Back Pain

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.