Sitting up straight – one of many myths about lower back pain

Sitting up straight – one of many myths about lower back pain to various international reports, lower back pain – or LBP, as it’s more conveniently referred to – is the single most common musculoskeletal condition we now face. With a staggering 58-84 per cent of adults set to experience this debilitating affliction at one or several points their lives, looking after one’s back remains not only a top priority among individuals but a significant burden on national health services too.

Today, thanks in large part to our predominantly stationary lifestyles (for which we’ll blame the desk job) and our skewed, 21st-century posture (perhaps we can blame endless social media scrolling for that one), certain companies are now making serious investments in the area of ergonomics. More than ever before, such back health rhetoric has become hot property.

Assumption: “Core strength is the key to reduced back pain.”

Reality: “That has become something of a mantra for a long time now, but it is more myth than reality. The early, small-scale, studies of core muscle function demonstrated a difference in how some people with low back pain used their abdominal and back muscles and this led the rehabilitation community to focus on them as a target for treatment. However, when studies into core muscles were repeated in larger, more robust research, the findings were different. A review of these 15 studies, published in 2014, concluded that neither the size, the activation pattern or the endurance of these muscles had an influence on low back pain or disability. Core exercises, designed to activate specific muscles in the low back and abdomen, have been associated with short-term reductions in pain in some people. When all the trials comparing ‘core stabilisation’ to other exercise, are reviewed, there is no convincing evidence that core exercise is more effective than any other type of exercise for treating back pain. Thus, if your back muscles are feeling tense and sore, it might not be too useful to add even more sustained tension. It also means that if you’ve been unsuccessful in using core stability training to treat your low back pain, it might not mean that your back is untreatable; it’s probably because those exercises don’t provide long-term relief for most people. This 2014 review also suggested that there is a sub-group of people who might actually tense their core muscles earlier than people without back pain, perhaps in anticipation of pain.” Sitting up straight – one of many myths about lower back pain