Avoiding exercise because of lower back pain? Scientists nowsay that lack of activity, such as sitting in front of yourcomputer or TV, deactivates the muscles that support yourspine, causing the pain in the first place.

Emma Young reports in New Scientist that when young menspent eight weeks in bed in a German study, most of themdeveloped lower back pain. This shows that the absence ofweight on spinal support muscles can sometimes be just ashard on your back as a physical injury.

Normally our spinal muscles work continuously to support andprotect our lower backs. Heavy lifting, whiplash or otherinjuries can damage these muscles, but only 10 to 15% oflower back cases begin that way. Usually the cause of thepain is mysterious.

Researcher Julie Hides says, “This is the first study toshow that these muscles that protect your spine are switchedoff in de-loading.” Once these muscles become weak anddeactivated, it?s hard to get them back into shape. Justgetting up and walking around won?t do it. Some of thevolunteers who spent time in bed haven’t recovered yet,after six weeks, even though they’re now exercising.

Spinal researcher Robert Moore says, “We know that bones andsoft tissues need physical stresses to maintain vitality.”

Doctors report that women and men report different types ofback pain. Most men blame their back trouble on job-relatedinjuries, while women blame their aching backs on childcare, gardening and housework. Men also put the blame onsports injuries such as weight lifting or playing golf,basketball or football. But maybe both sexes are wrong?maybethe problem is really too much couch potato time.

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