Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, with a global prevalence of 18.1%; it is one of the most common reasons for missed work, and one of the most common reasons for visits to the GP surgery.
Most back pain is mechanical, and non-serious; and it can often be seen as being a disease of dysevolution – which is to say that we are subjecting our spines to environmental factors which we are simply not evolved to cope with.
We evolved as a species with a complete absence of chairs and desks; computer screens and electric lights; shoes and processed foods. We were constantly mobile, hunting, gathering, playing; and later weeding and cultivating. Our lives were ruled by the natural rhythms of the seasons, the sun and the moon; with a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts and fresh meats – with a huge variety.
Essentially, the Homo genus of ape has existed for circa 125,000 generations; with 7,500 generations of Homo Sapiens. The advent of farming came about 500 generations ago, bringing with it a contraction of dietary variety, and the first possibility for sedentary individuals (chiefs). It has been 20 generations since Copernicus ushered in modern science, only 5 since the invention of the light bulb, and the advent of more highly processed foods. It has only been about 2 generations since the TV/tablet screens were commonplace in the bedroom, or the majority of the British workforce became sedentary. It has also been about 2 generations that we have been seeing “epidemics” of non-communicable diseases such back pain, obesity, diabetes, allergies & intolerances etc.
If we move more (both habitually, and in terms of moderate level exercise), improve our sleep hygiene (take 30-40 minutes of decreasing light levels, especially screens), and improve our diet (more variety, less inflammatory / highly processed foods). This will make a huge difference – use our bodies the way they’re “designed” to be used. Straighten up, and move. Unfortunately these are lifestyle solutions to lifestyle problems; and human nature prefers quick fixes, making someone else responsible, and prioritising short-term comfort over long-term health / comfort.