Many chairs, couches, mattresses and personal devices (belts) claim to have lumbar support as one of their features. But what exactly does lumbar support mean? “Lumbar” is not exactly a layman’s term and there can be a lot of confusion. If you’re looking to purchase a furniture piece with “lumbar support” as one of it’s selling points, then you should know what you’re paying for.
Lumbar refers to the part of the spine in the lower back that curves inward toward the belly or abdomen. On an average-sized person, the lumbar spine begins around five or six inches below the shoulder blades. It is connected to the thoracic spine at the top and the sacral spine on the bottom.
So when you hear people or when you yourself complain of a lower backache, it is most likely an issue with the lumbar spine. It may not necessarily the spine itself, it could be just the muscles surrounding it.
Because of its position, the lumbar part of the back is subjected to a lot of strain, but in terms of anatomy, does not offer a lot of structural support. The spine is made up of small, interconnected bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae encase and protect the spinal cord. Each vertebra is separated by an intervertebral disc, which also acts as a cushion of sorts. It prevents the vertebra from rubbing against and damaging each other. While the spine helps hold you erect and allows you to bend, it is actually a very fragile design. The discs and vertebrae are prone to injury and degeneration.
The strange thing is, you can hurt your lumbar spine while performing an activity or just from sitting on a sofa. Backaches are no respecter of weight, height, athletic ability, and even age.
This is why products that offer any sort of lumbar support are very popular across all demographics, from infants who can’t hold themselves upright quite yet to senior citizens who are experiencing some bone degeneration. (Don’t forget the middle-aged office workers who suffer from chronic backaches from sitting too long behind a desk.)
Lumbar support simply means the product is designed to alleviate or minimize the strain you would usually put on your back. It is built to offer extra support or cushioning, to hold your core in place and offer extra support, or to provide relief when it is finally time to rest your aching back.
What are the common causes of lumbar pain?
Lumbar pain and injury are not uncommon. They can be caused by an array of activities and underlying conditions. Here are just some of them.
- Slipped Discs
A slipped disc or a herniated disc means the soft cartilage between the vertebrae has misaligned. This can be caused by having an incorrect form while doing some heavy lifting, or just regular wear and tear of age. Most of the pain will be concentrated on the lower back but it can radiate to the hips as well.
- Inflammation of the Sacroiliac Joint
The point where the spine and the pelvic bone connects endures a lot of strain and pressure as it pretty much supports your upper body. The swelling or wear and tear of the joint and cartilage can be caused by an injury, age-related conditions like arthritis, and the bodily changes experienced during pregnancy.
- Spinal or Vertebral Fractures
A spinal fracture is usually caused by accidents or injuries when the back takes a direct hit. This can happen because of a bad fall, extreme sports, getting hit by a vehicle. There are many ways to crack your spine. Something as innocent as slipping on a bit of water can result in a serious injury depending on how you land.
- Muscle Strain
Less serious but probably more common is a muscle strain. The muscles and tendons around the spine are also subject to a lot of strain and pressure. Lifting and twisting as you engage in physical activities can cause serious muscle strain.
- Poor Posture
Something as innocent as how you sit, stand, and carry yourself could be wreaking havoc on your back. Slouching while standing, walking, or sitting hunched behind a desk will cause undue strain on your bones and muscles. Poor posture can damage your spine in the long run.
- Heavy Lifting
There is a right and a wrong way to lift things. This is one of the first things those who do weight training learn. Doing it the wrong way can cause muscle strain at best and serious spinal injury at worst. Always lift from the knees.
The spine and the knees are responsible for holding the body upright. The spine absorbs the brunt of the pressure and strain from our body weight. Being overweight will add undue pressure on your spine and can lead to chronic pain.
- Lack of Exercise
A poorly conditioned body is no stranger to aches and pains. When you have poor muscle tone, especially in your core area, it won’t be able to offer adequate support to your spine and may cause chronic aches and pains.
- Clinical Depression
Believe it or not, depression and anxiety could be a cause of backaches. The back muscles are also susceptible to emotional stress and tension. Your emotional status can cause all sorts of aches and pains or make an existing condition worse.
Scoliosis is the curvature of the spine often diagnosed during adolescence. Depending on the severity, it may go untreated or the person may require surgery. But, depending on the degree of spinal curvature, it may also cause some pain, especially later in life.
The sudden weight gain that tends to happen especially in the third trimester of pregnancy will often lead to some back pain. The mother’s body is not used to the extra weight on her core and her muscles and joints will be under a lot of strain. This is especially true is she is carrying multiples or a particularly heavy baby.
How do you prevent lumbar pain?
Accidents that cause injuries to the back and spine are unfortunate and sometimes can’t be avoided. However, there are measures you can take and factors you can actively control to help prevent lumbar pain. These are mostly lifestyle adjustments that are easy to do but have a huge impact on your health, especially in the long run. You might not feel anything now if you are young and healthy, but you will definitely pay for your neglect once you hit a certain age. Take good care of your back! Below are just some tips on how you can do it.
- Exercise Regularly
The stronger your muscles are, especially your core muscles. The core muscles are the muscles in your abdomen and back and provide the support for your spine. For good muscle tone and keep your weight within a healthy range, exercise regularly with some cardio and weight training.
- Consider a Specialize Bed Frame
This is especially true for older people or those suffering from osteoporosis or some other degenerative disease that weakens the bones. An adjustable bed like the Yaasa Adjustable Bed Frame will go a long way in easing backaches and will prevent further strain. The bed frame can be customized to reduce pressure on your spine.
- Replace Your Mattress
A mattress that is too soft can sag and cause backaches. Choose a mattress that will stay firm under your weight and will give your back ample support.
- Choose an Ergonomic Chair
For those with desk jobs, they already spend a huge chunk of their day in a sitting position. That is unhealthy in itself but with a poorly designed chair, it can also cause pain. Choose a chair which offers lumbar support to help ease the strain even with prolonged sitting. Make sure you get up and stretch at regular intervals (optimally every 30 minutes.)
- Back brace
A back brace isn’t just for weightlifters. Anyone can benefit from this added support to the core. It will also help train you to have a good posture. Most back braces are made with a lightweight mesh fabric that you can wrap around your waist and discreetly wear underneath your regular clothes.
- See a Doctor
Don’t ever take back pain for granted, especially if it is long-lasting. Even minor injuries can get progressively worse when left untreated. Some injuries like a slipped disc are irreversible but can only be treated by surgery or physical therapy. Once you have a diagnosis, your doctor can develop a treatment plan to ease or eliminate your pain.