Back problems

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People often experience various back problems. They seek out therapies; wanting a quick fix and the cause of the problem is seldom addressed.


Appeasing the symptoms will produce no lasting benefits. It is akin to taking a pill in order to mask/hide the symptoms whilst the underlying pain remains.
Fixing the problem usually entails some sort of lifestyle change.

Foetal position

A lot of people sit at a desk, operate their mobile phone, drive the car or watch TV in what is essentially a standing/sitting version of the foetal position.
We start life in that position. But we do not want to revert back to it as we age.

We weren't designed to sit. The body is a perpetual motion machine.

(Dr. Joan Vernikos)

The cause

There are many reasons why people have back problems. Here are a few examples:

Losing the natural curvature
Overdoing it at the weekend
Irregular, often strenuous exercise
Bad lifting technique
Poor coordination
Balance problems
Too much sitting
Twisting & over-stretching
Failure to rest appropriately
Stiff muscles that are not appropriately exercised (or are exercised in an abusive way)

There is a common theme here: functionality. The problem lies with the way in which the back is being used. Many of these causes are also responsible for knee problems.

1. Losing the natural curvature

Instead of relaxing the lower back and allowing the pelvis to remain neutral, many people shorten the lower back.
The spine loses its natural curvature and becomes weaker; more vulnerable to injury. They are typically unaware of this habit because it is 'familiar' and seems 'normal' to them.
Releasing the lower back is easy. However, you need to monitor it repeatedly throughout the day until it becomes an established habit.

2. Overdoing it at the weekend

People sit at a desk all day for 5 days a week, then at the weekend they catch up on the neglected chores (such as gardening). They play football. They run.
The body is unfit, the muscles have shortened during the week from neglect. Injury ensues.

3. Irregular, often strenuous exercise

Instead of following a frequent, measured routine throughout the week; the individual goes for 'a blast' once a week and then suffers afterwards.
People go from sitting stationary for long hours each day to suddenly undertaking rigorous, demanding exercise. They are unfit, not supple, not flexible and the muscles have become weak.
There is little or no bodily awareness.


Poor alignment, unrealistic ambitions and a failure to warm-up thoroughly enough result in back problems.
Many people go to the gym, lift heavy weights and then suffer from injuries, or run with an unhealthy, unbalanced, tension-filled technique.
Would-be martial artists do no training all week and yet expect to engage in challenging combat uninjured...

4. Bad lifting technique

Most people are quite aware of how to lift things correctly but many people ignore the advice. Hurried, sloppy lifting - with little or no adhesion to good structure and alignment - can lead to problems.
Take the time to learn how to lift things properly. There is a bounty of free information on-line. It is not complicated.
You just need to keep your mind on what you are doing, be sensible about the weight and use your body well.

Our reaction to disturbing events throws our bodies into chronic imbalance. We tend to hold the 'memory' of a traumatic experience in a particular part of the body. This muscular memory in time becomes part of the total pattern and is incorporated into an individual's use of himself.

(Michael Gelb)

5. Slouching

Computers, driving the car, sitting and poor day-to-day standing can lead people to stoop and slouch. Modern technology does not help.

Heavy head

Your head weighs almost a stone. When you let it hang forwards it acts as an anchor; pulling your spine downwards. The chest caves in. The abdominal muscles collapse.

6. Too much sitting

The main problem with sitting is gravity, loss of circulation and the tightening/shortening of your muscles. Muscular tension stops your joints and vertebra from moving freely.
When the hips, groin and sacroiliac freeze-up, the overall skeletal mobility is reduced.


The weight of your head and ribcage should be supported by the spine and by the strong muscles of the lower torso.
If the muscles are weak and the skeleton slumps forward, the weight of the bones/muscles/internal organs are supported by a slouched spine.
Only a spine that is upright and maintaining its natural curves can handle the weight of your upper body.

7. Twisting & over-stretching

It is quite common for people to damage their back by stretching too far in everyday life or twisting the wrong way.
Stretching and twisting are normally safe as part of a slow, controlled, supervised exercise program. In everyday life, avoid both.


Rather than stretch, step closer. Use a stool if you need to reach high. Instead of twisting, keep your spine vertical, and turn your entire body to face the object/subject.
Remember that humans are forward-facing beings.

8. Failure to rest appropriately

Not many people make the time to rest properly. They watch TV. They go out for meals. They run. But they do not rest.


Resting is not the same as relaxing. To rest is to stop all activity. If you make the time to rest properly your spine will widen and lengthen quite naturally.


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Page created 18 March 1997
Last updated 04 May 2023