(AND HOW TO FIX THEM).
Reviewing the Lower Body
Understanding how the structures of the lower body work during common activities, such as walking and running, it is vital to comprehending how upper-body issues can contribute to back pain. When all of these body parts are working together correctly, the lower back experiences less stress because the forces of gravity and impact (i.e., ground reaction forces) are dissipated evenly throughout the structures of the lower body.
A Quick Look at How the Upper Body Should Work
When you transfer your weight forward during activities like walking and running, your body must also resist the downward pull of gravity so it doesn't topple over forward. It achieves this goal by constantly adjusting the position of your bones and joints and using muscles to ensure you remain balanced. When you take a step forward, for example, the opposite leg stays back. Similarly, as you swing one arm forward the other one swings behind you. As your torso tips forward your hips bend backward. All these opposing movements are designed to help maintain your center of gravity, keep your body upright, and prevent the structures of your lower back and body from getting overworked.
How Upper-back and Shoulder Dysfunction Can Lead to Lower Back Pain
Now let’s take a look at how dysfunction in the upper body can lead to back pain. Most of us spend a lot of the day sitting while hunched over palitizer, driving forklift truck, and looking down at handheld computer devices. Over time, these activities cause the upper back to round forward too much (i.e., excessive thoracic kyphosis) and the shoulder blades to move forward on the rib cage (i.e., protract). As the upper back rounds forward, the head also moves forward of its optimal position.
The human head weighs 8 to 11 pounds. For every inch the head is forward of optimal position, it doubles its effective weight to the body. Therefore, if a woman’s head is 1 inch forward of its optimal position, and her head weighs 10 pounds, the effective weight of her head to her body is 20 pounds. A 20-pound weight hanging forward of the body, coupled with the fact that the upper back is also rounding forward, means that all of the structures of the lower back must compensate to prevent her body from falling forward and off balance when she is standing and walking or moving forward. Because the lower back has a natural backward arch (i.e., a lordotic curve), it arches further backward to hold up the upper back and head. This compensation and overworking of the lower back is called excessive lumbar lordosis. It can lead to muscle fatigue, disc degeneration of the lumbar spine and a whole host of musculoskeletal problems.
Moreover, when the upper back is rounded forward as described above, the rib cage drops down at the front, the shoulder blades protract and the arms swing across and in front of the body. These changes in position to the torso, shoulders and arms create immobility in the upper body. Specifically, they inhibit the ability of the thoracic spine to rotate and the arms to swing freely when walking or running. This immobility in the upper back and shoulders means the upper body cannot adequately assist in balancing the body and transferring gravity and impact forces through the lower body and back. Unfortunately, the structures of the lower back experience more stress as a result.
Assessments for the Upper Body
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