The blessings and pitfalls of mobility and flexibility
- the freedom from bone means the human lumbar spine is highly mobile. Also the soft tissues and organs around the lumbar spine can move, twist, and bend as your body needs for motion. Extra space to move! Potential range of motion! You are not stuck.
- the lack of extra bone architecture means the soft tissue (e.g. connective tissue, muscles, tendons, ligaments) have to do extra work to maintain the integrity of the low back. Imagine if you were all floppy in the waist and abdomen. The lumbar vertebrae could maybe hold you up if you stood vertically and balanced precisely. But now try to lean forward or to the side; the stress on your spine would be tremendous. You’d split in two.
So you need a strong “core”, 360 degrees around the low back–abs, quadratus lumborum, back muscles like erector spinae–to help the spine move and to support the low back.
If you sit all day at a desk or in a car, or your core is weak your lumbar spine can become compromised. Your body will try to compensate for the weak core muscles. This compensation process can lead to bulging disks, low back pain, or a stiff low back.
On the other hand, we can thank our tall, flexible waists for more elegant walking/running gait, and flexibility in balance. The core muscles support us, but they can also coordinate complex movement patterns. Plus, we have the potential for a tremendous freedom of expression and movement, in yoga and in other activities (you can bend your back over a bar in olympic style high jumps!)
In short, our waists are special. Our lumbar vertebrae, or our lower back, are free to move because the ribcage and pelvis aren’t stuck together.” (source)
All of my lower back issues just made a lot more sense.