Forwards or backwards?

an elderly man walking in a stopped way

When your back hurts, it often hurts to bend forward, or backwards, or sometimes even both.

I’m often asked by patients, “What’s most important for my back – being good at bending forward or at bending backwards?”

Well, both are important, but for different reasons.

If I had to choose, I would want a good range of movement bending backwards.

The reason for this is walking.

Try this. While standing up, place one leg in front of you as though you are taking a long stride. Notice how your lumbar spine has to bend backwards to allow this. If it can’t lean back, then you fall forward as you stride out.

The longer the step, the more the lumbar spine has to bend backwards to allow it.

Now, imaging what happens if you gradually lose the ability to bend backwards.

You stop taking long strides. You shorten your gait to adapt. This places more strain on the hips and knees. You can’t run or even jog properly anymore.

Eventually, you have to walk with a fixed stooping gait, taking short strides.

You could take a longer stride – it’s just that you don’t dare to.

Do what you can to keep a good range of backward bending as you age.