There are only 3 ways to damage your back

Surprised by the title?  Whether you have a problem with disc, muscle, ligament, bone, fascia, tendon or all of these, there really are only 3 ways to damage these tissues, and therefore only 3 ways to damage your lower back.

Peak load – external or internal.  If someone kicks you in the back, or you fall onto your back, that’s external peak load.  If you lift something really heavy, that’s internal peak load.  Either of these can tear tissue.

Cumulative Load.  If you do something again and again, even if it only involves a modest load, that’s cumulative load.

Sustained Load. If you stay in one position for a prolonged period of time, that’s sustained load. Gravity is still exerting a force on you when you’re lying down, and this type of sustained loading – along with sitting – is one of the biggest problems people have.

So 3 ways to damage your back – peak load, cumulative load, and sustained load.




Although there are 3 ways to damage your back, there is one simple way to reduce the risk.  Make sure your back is stronger than any load that it’s likely to experience – peak, sustained or cumulative.  To do this you have to put repeated loads on your back, AND give it recovery time.  This is just what weight lifters do.  They load their bodies to the limit, then give them time to recover and grow stronger.  Then they do it again.  This is what you’ll be doing in the Daily Gym activities.

By |2017-10-02T08:19:59+00:00August 25th, 2017|2 Comments

About the Author:

Clinic Director and Osteopath. Gavin graduated as a Gold Medallist in 1991 and is now a Vice Patron of the British School of Osteopathy. Co-author of “The Back Book” with Gavin Hastings OBE in 1996, and author of "active X backs - and effective solution for lower back pain"; he has an MSc in The Clinical Management of Pain from the University of Edinburgh. He's passionate about helping to move people as far from illness and pain as possible, and in January 2015 set himself the target of helping a million people get a better back.


  1. Chris Cowie 14/12/2017 at 00:05 - Reply

    Where does hurting your back with a simple twist or turn fit into the 3 way model? Same with over stretching or reaching in a tennis match. It’s not external, it’s not a repeated movement, and it’s done in a second so it’s not sustained.

    • Gavin Routledge 14/12/2017 at 07:10 - Reply

      Basically it’s a trigger Chris – it’s the thing that pushed you over the edge. In itself it’s unlikely to be enough to damage many backs. It was just “the last straw”. Look at your life for the other damaging mechanisms – cumulative, sustained and peak loading. Arguably sudden movements fit into the peak loading category… it may only be body weight, but it could be categorised as internal peak loading.

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