Mechanical back pain

What is mechanical back pain?

Mechanical back pain is the name given to any type of back pain, which is caused by putting abnormal stress and strain on the muscles which support the vertebral column.

For the most part, this type of pain is as a result of bad habits which can be corrected, such as: bad posture; poorly-designed seating; incorrect methods of bending and lifting etc.

Women, particularly those with young children, are more susceptible to mechanical back pain than men. Most women stoop down to pick up small children instead of bending from the knees, and the very damaging practice of slinging small children onto one hip is widespread.

How can it be avoided?

The sad fact of the matter is that most of us never give a second thought to the health of our back until something goes wrong. There are a few simple rules which should be observed so as to ensure that the back remains in a healthy condition and is not subjected to undue stress and strain:

  • Choose high-backed chairs for your home. A chair should be high enough to allow easy rising and sitting, and when sitting on the chair your knees should be at right angles and your feet flat on the floor. Avoid slouching in soft armchairs for long periods of time, and always try to gently arise from a sitting position rather than jumping up.
  • Chairs at work should have adaptable seat height and a back rest. They should allow you to swivel from one work surface to another without any strain, and to look slightly down onto a computer screen.
  • When washing hair, try to kneel at the side of the bath and use a shower attachment, or shampoo hair in the shower, rather than leaning over a sink.
  • Always use a non-slip mat in the bath and consider investing in a handrail. Many back injuries are caused by slipping in the bath.
  • If engaged in repetitive tasks such as gardening, it is important to take regular breaks so as to allow a change of posture and position.
  • Avoid the wearing of tight, restrictive clothing and very high heels as much as possible.
  • When shopping divide heavy loads between bags and carry equal amounts in each hand. Always use trollies where provided and do not be shy about asking the shop assistant to pack your backs and help you to your car if you suffer with back pain.
  • Avoid constipation, as straining to pass a motion is a common cause of lower back pain.
  • Obesity is another major cause of strain on the back, so try to maintain a healthy weight.
  • When picking up small children, it is most important to bend from the knees and to hold the child closely in front of you. The same rule applies when picking up any heavy object.
  • Exercise classes, while they are definitely good for mental and physical well-being, may result in mechanical back pain. This arises mainly as a result of the widespread practice of touching the toes, doing sit-ups and making full circles with the neck, all of which place undue strain on the back.
  • Buy a good, firm orthopaedic mattress for your bed and throw out that old, sagging mattress which is doing untold damage to your back while you sleep!

If the pain persists, what should I do?

Mechanical back pain will rarely persist if steps are taken to correct the factors which caused it in the first place. If the pain does persist it may indicate a more serious problem and it should, therefore, be thoroughly investigated.


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