Lower back pain is a very common phenomenon for a lot of people, but it is in fact more prevalent in tall people, which I’m guessing is no surprise. I experience this myself when I stand up for a longer period of time and I hear a lot of taller people complain about the same.
As I’m not sure why this is exactly, I read up about this and I gathered a few exercise tips to help improve this.
There are various reasons for lower back pain, some external, and some have to do with the way we are build. Let’s look at the (obvious) external factors first. Badly fitted furniture which isn’t build for our posture is one of them: desks, chairs, tables and beds are designed around average people, forcing us to use unsuitable furniture a few times a day at least (on trains, planes, in cars, restaurants and cafe’s, etc.).
Another factor is that when standing up in a crowd, we often have to lean forward to hear the conversations, so we put our bodies in the weirdest, unhealthy positions.
Internal factors are that we have a bigger vertebrae (spine) and longer limbs. Longer limbs mean longer levers, and although our vertebrae is larger in terms of height, there is not always a proportional increase in width, making it harder for core muscles to resist the effects of long levers.
Since we can’t change our height, the only thing we can do is ensure we have proper furniture at home and at work and make sure our core is in shape.
Let’s have a closer look at that last one: the core is a complex series of muscles, consisting of the deep abdominal muscles along with the muscles closest to the spine. The core is involved in almost every movement of the human body and acts as a stabilizer and force transfer center.
There are various ways to strengthen your core, I list 3 of the most helpful ways below.
Pilates focuses on emphasizing proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment, and concentration on smooth, flowing movement to become acutely in tune with your body. You actually learn how to control its movement. In Pilates the quality of movement is valued over quantity of repetitions. Proper breathing is essential, and helps you execute movements with maximum power and efficiency. Added benefit: learning to breathe properly can reduce stress.
2. Back exercises
I asked 6’1ft fitgirl and personal trainer Zanna van Dijk a few suggestions for exercises and she too recommends that tall people focus on building up strength in their posterior chains (so their back, glutes and hamstrings) as these help to improve their posture and support their overall movement. Key exercises for this are deadlifts, rows and reverse lunges.
Note that form is extremely important when doing these exercises so if you’re not sure what you’re doing, ask help, or schedule a (one time) session with a personal trainer who can show you how to do this.
Swimming develops core body strength because it utilizes all the body’s muscles simultaneously so it’s a full body work out at the same time. Because up to 90% of the body’s weight is supporter by the water, the risk of getting injuries is heavily reduced.
As for me: I’m doing one pilates session a week and I combine it with a few running-, swimming- or gym sessions a week. I mix those up to keep it fun and to keep variety. Running isn’t a particular exercise that I chose for my back, but I enjoy doing it and it burns lots of calories too, so that’s why I keep it in my work-out routine.
Pictures courtesy of Pinterest