It's a fanny thing about pain

Posted: June 05, 2014

IT'S TIME for a true confession.

With the warmer weather, I wanted to literally lighten my load. So, the first thing I thought I'd get rid of was my big designer bag. I did a closet excavation, and somewhere at the bottom of a storage box I found it, the good old fanny pack (a/k/a waist packs or lumbar packs).

Yes, I know: Fanny packs are not fashionable. But I was going for, you know, functionality. Besides, for years I heard that carrying a bag around your waist was healthier than some of the other alternatives.

So, while I knew that carrying a fanny pack put me in violation of every fashion rule, I was psyched about exercising outdoors and having my hands free to do impromptu strength exercises.

Being smart and efficient, I ditched my purse for the fanny pack, and threw in my iPhone, keys, change purse and lip balm, and off I went.

Initially, everything was great. That is, until a few days later, when I woke up to this excruciating pain in my lower back. The pain was intense and at times felt like I was in the last stages of labor and delivery. At first, I could not imagine what I had done to injure my lower back. I hadn't been lifting particularly heavy weights, I'm no longer toting a toddler, but then it dawned on me . . .

The fanny pack.

It had never occurred to me that the fanny pack could be potentially injurious to the body. I hadn't bargained for that. I had no idea that wearing it posed a potential threat to my spinal health.

I suppose, in retrospect, it makes sense. The lumbar region of your spine is extremely sensitive, and a quick review of human anatomy had me questioning if the fanny pack was safe, or at least a safe choice for me.

This recent, and hopefully last, experience with chronic lower-back pain has taught me, first, not to ever take my lumbar spinal health for granted again. Secondly, this experience has taught me that perhaps walking with even a light load of only 5 pounds strapped around the lumbar spine is just not a good idea.

For me, attaching a fanny pack with even a little weight definitely caused an injury.

And, according to the experts, more than 80 percent of Americans suffer from chronic lower-back pain. Bad habits like poor posture, sitting excessively and even smoking are some of the known culprits.

You also can avoid or minimize lower-back pain by using good body mechanics when lifting; so, be sure to lift with your knees, and not your back. Developing and maintaining overall fitness and a strong core also will minimize your risks.

Bottom line: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle means, first, do no harm, and that means taking special care to protect overall mobility, especially the knees and the back.

Kimberly Garrison is a wellness coach and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia. Her column appears Wednesdays.

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