Why the low back is like a spring – when it’s working properly

a picture of a set of springy hoops curved in an inverted U shape


A useful way to think about your low back is that it’s like a spring.

A spring, when you compress it, absorbs energy. When you let go, it returns to its original length.

Your low back should do this too.

When we sit, we want the low back to compress in this spring-like way.

Working well

If your low back is good at bending backwards and to the sides, then during sitting your spine will compress nicely.

a female dancer leaning backwards against the sky

Your lumbar spine will absorb this energy like a spring.

If everything works well, then you won’t notice discomfort.

And when you come to stand up and move, your back will release its stored energy, allowing you to come upright without any strain at all.

Not working well

But if the low back isn’t working well?

Then this spring-like mechanism doesn’t happen.

The back warps and twists as it sits, making it more likely that muscles, ligaments and discs will grumble and become increasingly irritated, eventually broadcasting pain messages.

And when you stand up, there is no natural recoil. Instead, muscles are confused, and you have that bent forward look as you come upright and a need to ‘walk it off’.

Your low back has that heavy feel, whereas the happy spine feels light and floaty.

My job

It’s the job of the osteopath to restore good extension and side-bending. Doing this well should mean better sitting and a happier low back when you stand, walk and run.

You will even find it more comfortable at night on your mattress.

It’s not easy for you to see the way your lumbar spine bends, so a good tip is to ask the osteopath to video you before and after treatment.

Except in the most subtle cases, you’ll feel and see the difference between the two.

Do have a read of my article on sitting.