Compressing the lumbar spine all day long strikes me as the human condition. We are, often maddeningly, creatures of habit, and there is nothing in particular that steers us towards the positive when it comes to the endless number of our unconscious repetitive behaviors.
We simply walk, sit and stand the way we walk, sit and stand unless for some reason over the course of our lives we have chosen to examine the behavior to try to change or improve it.
While I take for granted that a good number of people who read this blog have made that leap of introspection, the overwhelming majority of sentient beings have not.
I’ll write a post about sitting in the next few days because poor sitting patterns aren’t always compressing the lumbar spine; they tend to put the opposite strain on the lower back for a double whammy.
Simply stated most people are habitually compressing the lumbar spine whenever they walk and stand and over the course of a lifetime this often gentle (which is all the more insidious) compression can easily allow the spine to degenerate.
The lower back or lumbar spine is made up of five bones that are referred to as L1-5 with the uppermost one labelled L1. The lumbar bones are different than the other bones of the spine in that they are designed for bearing a transferring weight exclusively. To that end they are the largest of the bones of the spine and while they can flex and extend they have very little ability to twist.
The spine can be divided into front and back sections. The front is the big bones with the cushiony discs between them. The back half, from where movement emanates, is made up of bony projections called processes, one on each side called the transverse and one pointing to the back called the spinous process.
You should be able to see the space between the spinous processes of the lumbar spine in the picture to the left. These spaces allow for flexing and extending the spine.
Over the course of our lives we would like to have posture and movement patterns that maintain that space between the spinous process.
But I can assure you, and the empirical evidence is the overwhelming number of spines that degenerate, that most people are leaning oh so slightly backwards all the time that they are walking and standing, minimizing the distance between the spinous processes and essentially compressing the lumber spine all the time.
Compressing the lumbar spine is nothing more than an ingrained habit and with repetition habits can change.