Who else had parents that told them to stand or sit up straight at least three times a day? Not any teenager's favourite thing to hear, but sadly like parents often are, they were right. Given how much we sit these days, sitting with a better posture, or doing some work to loosen up the tightness we accumulate is vital.
The spine has four segments, the cervical (neck), thoracic (ribcage), lumbar (lower back), and sacral (tailbone). Each segment has either a kyphotic (forwards) or Lordotic (backwards curve).
When we sit at a desk, the forward curve of the thoracic becomes exaggerated into a hunchback type position, over time the joints of the thoracic spine become stiff and locked like the links of a rusty bike chain.
If the thoracic loses its range of motion (it tends to tighten worst in extension and rotation), the lumbar spine has to pick up the slack and becomes the primary point of motion. This overload on the lower back can lead to stress fractures, muscular overload or disc injury.
So often lower back tightness or injury is a symptom. The true cause of lower back pain often stems from a tight thoracic or tight/weak hips
What we need to do is loosen those joints to re-establish mobility and range into both extension and rotation.
Step one is to mechanically loosen out the joints.
Grab a roller. Under the middle of your back. Hoodies and ponytails out of the way, hands behind your head and open up the chest, relaxing your head down the ground. Once you are fully opened up, little rolls up and back under the ribs.
You might get some pops and cracks, this is a good thing. That's those joints loosening back up. If the roller's too easy, the next option is to use backballs. Put these along your spine starting at the top and slowly work your way down the spine until about the middle.
Pro Tip: Rolling over a basketball, soccer ball, or netball is another great way of loosening up the
Once you've mechanically loosened up the joints with the roller or backballs, gentle mobilising drills are next.
The cat-camel (sometimes called happy cat-angry cat), helps loosen up and reintroduce range of motion into the spine through extension. Really important though; if this causes any sharp pain, stop immediately. It should not hurt your lower back but instead just a stretching sensation along the entire spine.
It's all well and good loosening things off. But if you don't put this new mobility into practice, the gains you make just evaporate.
Start at the head, tucking the chin in and imagine there is a string pulling your head to the ceiling. Shrug the shoulders up then bring them back and down. This taller, longer posture will help reduce the effects of the desk and stop that newly mobilised spine from tightening back up, plus as a bonus, it makes you a little bit taller.