Resources / Knowledge

  • Author | Josh Lowry, PT
  • Date | 5/6/2022 8:00 am
Ways to Prevent Back Pain From Mechanical Stress

How to Prevent Back Pain From Mechanical Stress

The spine is one of the most common sources of pain we see as muscle, bone and joint experts. No matter why, how, or where your pain is centralized - lower back, mid-back, or neck - most of us will experience spinal pain at some point in our life.

Most spine pain is mechanical, occurring when a joint between two bones has set in a position that overstretches the ligament or surrounding soft tissues of that joint. 

What causes spine pain?

Pain can result from an injury such as a fall, car accident, or lifting injury, and most forms of mechanical pain in the spine are due to heavy, sustained load bearing. From postural stresses, daily activities, or repetitive work tasks, many things can cause pain in the spine.

Many of us spend several hours in positions that promote poor posture. Prolonged sitting during work, rounding our back during daily activities, looking down for extended periods, and sitting with our head tilted forward, which, over time, can lead to mechanical pain in the spine.

How mechanical spine pain works

Mechanical pain from prolonged stress can be explained through a simple experiment; grab and pull your finger as far back as you can go without feeling pain. Although you'll feel fine at first, that sensation will start to get slightly uncomfortable after a few minutes. Now stop and imagine doing that for 8 hours straight. It would be very uncomfortable.

Preventing mechanical spine pain

Your muscles and tissue begin to strain and overstretch over time. This is how mechanical pain develops in the spine and injuries such as strains, sprains, disc pathology, and sciatica-type pains begin.

You can limit postural stress in daily activities by integrating other movements into your routine and help ultimately negate the onset of mechanical pain in the spine.

These simple exercises can help negate the effects of poor posture and postural stress:

Woman doing neck stretch

Neck Stretch

    1. Sit up straight and move your head slowly but steadily backward as far as you can manage until you feel a stretch in your neck. Make sure to keep your head straight and look forward so as not to tilt up or down while performing the exercise.

    1. Hold for a 3-4 seconds seconds and relax. Your head will naturally return to the starting position. 

    1. Repeat 2-3 times

Middle Back Stretch

    1. Sit on the edge of a chair and place your arms behind your head as shown in the picture. 

    1. Bring your elbows in and gently arch your back as if sticking your chest out. You should feel a stretch in the middle of your back. Hold for a couple of seconds and return to starting position.
Man doing middle back stretch
Woman doing lower back stretch

Lower Back Stretch

    1. While lying on your stomach with palms placed firmly on the floor, or standing against the wall, fully straighten your elbows while lifting only your chest off the ground. Be sure not to let your pelvis come off the ground or leave the wall.  

    1. Hold for 4-5 seconds and return to starting position.  
    2. If your arm mobility is limited, simply prop up on your elbows for 2-3 minutes to maintain the stretch.

For pain prevention, these exercises should be performed 1-2 times per day for a total of 10 repetitions throughout your day.

Just as we brush our teeth 2-3 times per day to prevent cavities, we can perform these simple spine exercises to lower the risk of mechanical spine pain.