LOW BACK PAIN & A MAN’S STOMACH
Many men experience low back pain at some stage in their life-time. In fact most people experience lower back pain at some stage in their life-time. The incidence rate for lower back pain is reported to be as high as 80% of the population experiencing significant lower back pain through -out their life time.
As a physiotherapist I spend time educating male clients suffering from lower back pain about the causes of their lower back pain. I explain how there is rarely just one factor that causes lower back pain, but rather a combination of factors that drives the onset of their pain. I make the analogy that developing lower back pain is a bit like making a cake-if you throw enough of ‘ingredient X and Y in’ will end up with a cake, or in the case of lower back pain; enough contributory factors in and you end up with pain and injury.
Common contributory factors that I see in the development of men’s lower back pain include:
- tightness of the hip musculature (e.g. gluts, hip flexors, hamstrings)
- over load of the back’s supportive structures (e.g. a one-off accident or a gradual over load that occurs due to repetitive movements or activity)
- weakness of key supporting muscles (such as trunk muscles, abdominals, and gluts)
- stiff upper spines (thoracic region)
Most men recognise that these factors can contribute to the onset of their lower back pain and injury. Being in general mechanically minded, the men seem to intuitively grasp the concepts of lower back injury due to tightness, weakness, and trauma.
With this being the case I have perpetually been astonished that one of the most common contributory factors for lower back pain is often not acknowledged by many men who are suffering from back pain.
The factor that is often under-acknowledged is the man’s body weight.
That’s right how much they weigh. Many men with lower back pain struggle to compute that the 10kgs extra they are carrying on their ‘frame’ (body) is having an adverse effect on the health of their lower back. These very same men will acknowledge the afore-mentioned other factors and take responsibility for the correction of these respective factors, however when it comes to body weight it can often be the ‘red herring’ of the causative factors. Many men just don’t want to ‘own’ and take responsibility for their body weight.
In addition to not wanting to own being overweight as a risk factor many men also fail to appreciate that this weight (normally stored at the stomach for men) is adding excessive loads and forces on the lower back. The reality is that even an extra kilogram in excess of a man’s ideal frame weight will subject the lower back to extra loads, let alone upwards of 10kgs of excess weight which is commonplace for many men in today’ society.
I recall my own lower back pain that I first experienced while a university student being markedly worse when I was 10kgs in excess of what my normal body weight would be. This was during the years when I was very focussed on developing big muscles and biceps to impress my girlfriend (now wife-it worked!). Fast forward to 7 years later and I am now 10kgs lighter by virtue of more aerobic activity (which I am much better suited for) and I rarely get a day of lower back pain.
As a treating physiotherapist I have seen many men make complete and comprehensive recovery from debilitating episodes of back pain (first time episodes and also recurrences). In the majority of these success stories and successful recoveries the man has had to own their excess body weight as a contributing factor that in combination with other factors led to the onset of their pain.
It needs to be noted that while acknowledgement and ownership are indeed step one, setting out to modify the body weight through a sustained and sensible program of weight loss is equally as important.
My observations of men who have successfully lost excess body weight to aid their back pain is that they have accountability by way of a trainer or supportive spouse, have an attitude of ‘consistency verse perfection’, and have a strong reason to want to change (believe it or not a sore lower back is not always a big enough why and reason to change).
So if you are suffering from acute back pain, a stiff back, or recurring back pain-take action jump on the scales and record your frame or body-weight.
How’s your weight?
Compared to your ‘ideal frame weight’ what do the scales show?
Are you in excess of your ideal frame weight?
If yes by how many kilograms? Go ahead and estimate the excess kilograms.
I hope that this post has got you thinking about how you can break through and overcome the lower back pain or stiffness that you may be experiencing. Start small, but start today!
Brad Beer (APAM)
Physiotherapist, Author, & Founder POGO Physio
ps. you may also find this infographic ’10 Tips to Help Relieve Your Lower Back Pain’ helpful.