The feeling may be familiar to you – you try to get out of your comfy chair and your low back is cranky. It aches. It may take you a few extra seconds to fully straighten up.
The best way to describe why your low back has trouble getting up from sitting is that your lumbar discs are getting squashed.
Have you ever sat on one of those giant gym balls?
If the ball is new and fully pumped up, it doesn’t deform much – it provides a fairly stiff seat for you.
But if the ball is old and only partly inflated, your experience of sitting is different. The ball can deform considerably and your seating is unstable.
The same changes that occur in the gym ball also occur in the discs of your low back. As you age, your discs lose some of the structural tightness that is designed to keep your low back stable. And your discs aren’t as hydrated either. The water content is what normally keeps your disc “inflated,” just like air keeps the gym ball inflated.
What can you do about it?
“Stretching” of the low back doesn’t exactly help. Trying to move the spine towards greater and greater ranges of motion can backfire. Forward-bending stretching (known as flexion) can be particularly problematic.
That’s because the tissues that get stretched – the fibers of the intervetebral disc- are no longer as elastic as they used to be.
But here are some ideas that should help:
- Your mattress shouldn’t sag. It’s beneficial is your mattress adjusts locally to your different body parts – the shoulders or hips, for instance. But it shouldn’t sag over its whole length. A Tempur-Pedic memory-foam bed (or one of its knockoffs) is designed to do this, but a conventional firm coil-spring mattress with extra padding or a mattress topper should work too.
- You can make sure your discs are maximally healthy by drinking extra water and supplementing with chondroitin sulfate and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oil.)
- The squatting posture helps decompress the discs of the low back and improves their resiliency. This isn’t a squat exercise using weights to build up the strength of your gluteal muscles. This is sitting in a squatting position for 30 seconds or more to lengthen the low back.
- Your chiropractor is your friend too. Through palpation, your doctor can determine if any imbalances in the alignment of your pelvis or low back are contributing to your problem.