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Travel Considerations for your low back

Silk Road #8  I recently drove with my family to San Diego and back.  While sitting in LA traffic for what seemed an eternity,  I began to think about my back and how bad it was to be sitting so long.  We often think of low back pain being caused by heavy lifting, twisting the wrong way, or repetitious activities; but how often do we think of the repercussions of inactivity or our increasingly sedentary lifestyle?

Low back pain is often caused by physical structures deep within the abdominal cavity vs. joints, discs, or muscles of the back itself.  The iliopsoas is a muscle that is often involved.  It begins as the psoas muscle that lies deep in the abdominal floor  attaching laterally to the facet joint of the last thoracic vertebra and each facet joint of the lumbar spine.  It joins the iliacus muscle which lies in the concavity of the hip bone or ilium to form the iliopsoas muscle attaching distally to the inner thigh or femur bone. This muscle is involved with any knee /chest movement such as walking, hiking, biking, squatting, raking, or shoveling. It can become short with prolonged sitting.  Patients rarely complain of pain directly in this muscle.  Due to its proximity to the lumbar spine, most patients complain of low back pain when the iliopsoas is shortened or in spasm.  People often feel worse with prolonged sitting and squatting activities or at the end of the day when muscle tightness increases.   They  may feel better with movement.

Prolonged sitting is also not good for the joints, discs, and muscles of the lumbar spine.  Humans are designed for movement.  Just like a car engine that needs oil for proper function, our joints need to be lubricated by synovial fluid.  The discs are subject to intra -abdominal pressures that increases with prolonged postures.  Muscles need to move for proper pumping and flowing of fluids within the lymph and circulatory system as well as for maintaining proper flexibility and strength within the muscle tissue itself.

Walking is free and easy to do.  Get up and move.  If you have recently been sedentary or have low back pain already and are afraid that walking may increase your pain, start with 5 or 10 minutes.  For best results, avoid prolonged sitting or standing or repeated activities.

Just as a friendly reminder, Idaho is a direct access state which means you do not need a physician’s referral to go to physical therapy.

Mary Boyd, MS, PT is the owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy and a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.  She can be reached at 290-5575 for questions or on the web at

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