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Back Pain Is More Prevalent Among Tall People
Back pain is a common phenomenon in the general population, but it is more common in tall people. A study of 17-year-old Israeli military recruits from 1998 to 2009, published in Health & Science Today, found that men taller than 6 feet were 44 percent more likely to experience low back pain, while men taller than Women who are 5 feet 7 inches are 22% more likely to experience back pain than shorter women.
Some things you can’t change, and your height is one of them. However, being tall doesn’t mean you’re doomed to back pain. We must first identify the mechanism of pain and then set out to find possible solutions.
There are two ways in which height can cause back pain. The first branch of height-related back pain involves the body structure itself. Tall people are especially prone to disc degeneration, and there are many possible causes.
Tall people may have taller intervertebral discs than the average person. A study by Natarajan et al in the September 1999 issue of Spine confirmed that the higher the disc height, the higher the failure rate. It takes extra stress when loading discs with average area and extra height. If a tall disc is bulged, it will bulge larger than a disc of average height; this leads to an increased risk of nerve impingement in the form of sciatica.
Another possible cause of back pain in tall people is the distance between the arm hinges and the lower back. The arms act as levers on the body. The closer the hinges (shoulders/armpits) are to your center of gravity, the less stress you put on your discs when lifting. Taller people have a greater distance between the hinges and the center of gravity, putting more stress on the spine, especially the lower back.
If you’re tall, it’s important to strengthen your discs with strong muscles. A strong core helps reduce pressure on the intervertebral discs. It is wise to invest in a lumbar support to provide extra support to the spine while sitting. It’s also important to avoid lifting very heavy objects, and to practice proper body mechanics when lifting (for example, lifting with a straight back).
Postural Dysfunction and Strain
When you’re a tall person in a small world, you find yourself bending over and reaching out a lot. From doorways to chairs, most things aren’t designed for you. Ergonomics and proper biomechanics are key to avoiding repetitive strain injuries.
For tall people, an ergonomic chair is a necessity, not a luxury. The seat and armrest height of the ergonomic chair are adjustable. Some have built-in lumbar support; make sure these are also adjustable. No matter what you do, your workstation should fit your height. You may need a taller desk or work surface to avoid constant bending.
To limit the harmful effects of constant bending and stretching, you must train your body to move with maximum efficiency and without dysfunction. When bending over to pick up something, bend your hips, not your lower back. This maintains your natural lumbar curve and reduces pressure on the intervertebral discs. When ducking into a low doorway, bend your knees or hips and keep your back and neck straight rather than tilting your neck to the side. These and other simple moves can prevent height-related muscle strains, joint dysfunction, and disc degeneration.
If you need a more structured approach to correcting body mechanics, consider learning the Alexander technique. The program focuses on efficient movement that puts as little stress on the body structure as possible. The Alexander Technique can be performed at home or under the guidance of a trained instructor. See http://www.alexandertechnique.com/ for more information.
While you can’t change your height, you can limit how it affects your back health. The way you move and the space you work in can be changed to prevent or address back pain.
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