Hey, lets face it: times are tough. Being an adult means that there are bills to pay, mouths to feed and things to do. This translates into more time spent at the workplace, and less time spent doing the things that you love with the people that you care about. With this being said, more and more people are looking for alternative ways to make a little bit of cash. Enter Uber. Uber, and other ride sharing services like Lyft and Sidecar, offer up a very unique solution to this time tested financial problem: the ability to work for decent pay when you want, without having to compromise your social life in the process. But that doesn’t mean that working for Uber doesn’t have its own set of unique consequences. And as I’m sure you’ve gathered by the title of this blog post, it can lead to low back pain! C’mon now, this is a blog that is authored by a chiropractor, what did you think this blog was going to be about? Allow me to explain.
If driving for Uber is your side gig, you’d work 15 hours a week, and to make a livable wage for Uber, which is around $50,000, you would have to drive upwards of 50 hours a week. So on average, an Uber driver works 30-35 hours a week. Now, in a blog that I am going to release in the coming weeks, where I will outline why sitting is the new smoking, I’ll talk about how sitting has a butt-load of negative health consequences. But for now, let’s focus on how sitting is terrible for your low back. And here’s why:
Let’s start with a brief anatomy lesson on a very important muscle in the front of your body: The Iliopsoas. This muscle is located in the front of your hip, and is responsible for bringing your hip into flexion (think bringing your knee towards your chest). This muscle starts up top and originates at the vertebra and their discs in your low back, known as the lumbar spine. It then works its way across the hip joint and inserts onto your upper leg bone, or femur. The thing about muscles is they behave like cement (its quite a bit more complex than that, but this is a good metaphor, so bare with me for a moment). If you keep cement moving like when it’s being transported in a cement mixing truck, it stays fluid and doesn’t solidify. But when it reaches the job site and gets poured out and stays still, it solidifies. Let’s bring it back to the world of muscles. When you sit for any prolonged amount of time, like say, when you’re driving for Uber, your Iliopsoas stays put and doesn’t move. It then solidifies in this shortened position and won’t want to stretch out. Now when you get out of your car and stand up after an 8 hour Uber session, your iliopsoas muscle pulls on its attachment site on your low back, creating a sharp pain in your lumbar spine.
Now that we understand why Ubering is so terrible for your low back, what can we do about it? Well, to be honest, this is a chiropractic blog for my business, so the businessman in me wants me to just tell you to call my office to make an appointment to come in for some treatment. But, the doctor in me is going to tell you to stretch; and if that doesn’t work, then come in for a treatment.
You can stretch the Iliopsoas in 2 different ways, and I’ll walk you through each of them. The basic premise behind these techniques is simple, to create hip extension (think kicking your leg back behind you). But here’s a little disclaimer before I go into the stretches. There are plenty of other reasons for why you might be suffering from low back pain. If you’re reading this blog post, sweating up a storm from the your low back pain, taking 8 – 10 Advils a day to manage it, and wanting to punch everyone you see in the face, I’m sorry, this stretch is not for you. If this is you, please make an appointment with me, or another well-qualified physician.
1. Standing Iliopsoas Stretch
Get into a split leg stand like you’re going to do a lunge. If you’re clumsy like most people, be sure to give yourself enough side-to-side width so you don’t lose your balance and break a hip. Keep your upper body as upright as possible, without hyperextending your low back. Take a moment to check your back hip and to make sure that it is squat with the rest of your body. Now take a look at your back foot and make sure that your toes are pointed forwards. If you’ve accomplished these two body positions, start to bend your front knee forwards, without changing the angle of your upper body. If you are a master yogi, and want to earn some extra credit, you can do a side bend towards your front leg to really add some stretch to that Iliopsoas. You should be feeling a stretch in the front of your hip joint. Hold this position for a minute and switch legs. Do this a couple of times throughout the day, for the next couple of days, and see if it brings forth some relief.
2. The couch stretch
This next one is one of my faves. If you’ve spent any amount of time in the world of crossfit, chances are that you’ve heard of a gentleman by the name of Kelly Starrettof San Francisco Crossfit and his website, MobilityWod. I learned this one from the man himself, and I’m going to share it with you guys here. Kelly, if you’re reading this, and you’ve copyrighted the name “couch stretch”, I apologize, please don’t sue me. Side note: can you copyright a stretch? I digress…
Start by jamming one of your knees into a corner of a couch with the foot of your other leg firmly planted on the ground, and your upper body folded over your front leg. While in this position, square your hips like in the last stretch; push your butt back towards the backrest of the couch. When you’ve accomplished this, without moving any joints besides your hip joint, extend your body upwards like a drawbridge towards the back of the couch. If you’re too tight, and can’t get into a fully upright position, then stop there. For those of you limber enough to get into the upright position, continue on to the next step. In this upright position, squeeze the butt of the leg that’s on the couch, and now you should feel a pretty gnarly stretch in the front of your hip.
I’m going to guess that by now, you have gathered that this article isn’t really about how Uber can lead to low back pain, but about how sitting can do so. I put Uber in the title to up my search engine results and to earn your readership. With that being said, everybody in today’s modern society can benefit from a little couch stretching. If you liked this blog post, share it with your buddies and leave a comment below to let me know how those stretches worked out for you.