Discs are tough cushions between your spine bones (left-hand drawing). They are living parts of your body. When you bend forward, the front of your vertebrae (back bones) squeeze closer together. The space between the back of each vertebrae opens. After many years of bad habits of sitting rounded forward, bad bending over forward, and stretching by bending over forward, the discs are forced backward, like squeezing the front of a water balloon (right drawing above). They begin to break down (degenerate) and move outward to the back, also called slip or herniate. Herniation can continue over years until it suddenly causes back pain with one more bad bend, until the disc moves backward enough to touch the nerves going down your leg causing sciatica and other nerve pain, or even press on your spinal cord. This is avoidable and easily reversed.
Discs can quickly heal without surgery, if you change your bending and sitting habits in simple, healthy ways:
1. Sitting. When you sit, don’t round your back. You don’t need an expensive ergonomic chair. No chair makes you sit right. You just use your own muscles to sit right. Make sure you don’t tighten and strain to sit straight. Pull your chair in closer to the desk, and lean your upper back against the seat back. Don’t round forward or push your lower back against the seat. Many seat backs are rounded so that you have to sit poorly if you rest your back against them. Don't let this happen. I will write more about healthy sitting in future posts.
2. Bending. The average person bends hundreds of times every day for daily activities like laundry, kitchen, pets, gardening, children, household chores, and everything else. Check to see if you are bending badly each time, hurting your discs. Check at the gym if you add more forward bending for toe-touches, weight lifting, and exercise class. The post Are You Making Your Exercise Unhealthy? shows some easily missed sources. The post Common Exercises Teach Bad Bending shows more. Bad bending puts herniating forces on your discs hundreds of times every day. No wonder your back hurts.
Here is one way to get healthy built-in leg exercise and stop back pain by bending well for every time you bend to reach things very day:
- Stand with feet side by side, comfortably apart.
- Bend both knees. Keep both heels down touching the floor.
- Keep your upper body upright, as if you don’t want something to fall out of your shirt pocket.
- As you bend lower and lower, peek down and make sure you can see your toes. If you can't, that means you are letting your knees come forward, which shifts your weight to your knees.
- Keep your knees back over your ankles to keep your weight on your leg muscles. Many people won't bend with their knees because it hurts their knees. This good bending stops knee pain too.
With healthy bending habits, you get free exercise hundreds of times a day, strengthen your legs, stop knee pain, and let your discs heal, all at the same time.
Many Fitness Fixer posts tell more about the large contribution of good daily bending, sitting, and moving habits to healthy lifestyle and stopping the source of disc injury. Click the links in this post for more examples and information. Click the labels under this post for all Fitness Fixer posts about that topic, for example, for good bending, click "squat"and "lunge," for healthy sitting, click the label "sitting." For all posts explaining discs or sciatica and how injury occurs and can heal, click those labels.