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What Causes Lower Back Pain? I’m Blaming the Toilet

If you want a stat that will scare you, 4 out of every 5 people will go through some form of low back pain in their lives. Doesn’t everyone wonder what causes lower back pain? Are we all doomed for it, or is it something we naturally need to deal with? I believe it’s a bit of both. 

We’re doomed because we put ourselves in terrible positions and situations that provoke our pain in our low backs. If you want a quick hack to prevent a largely unknown but arguably potent source of your back pain, keep reading. You’ll need to become a physiotherapist with me today. First, do the following the next time your butt’s on a toilet seat:

Become aware of the position you’re in

Are your knees tucked in? Do you curl your low back forward? Are you leaning on one knee?

Pay attention to what you’re doing

Catching up on social media? Meditating? Taking a long time? 

Think about the current toilet setup

Is it a low seat? Is there a lot of space on the seat to sit on? Is there something you can prop your feet on?

I Realized Toilet’s What Causes Lower Back Pain in Many of Us

For many of us living in North America, the toilet is the standard method we part ways with our bowel and bladder (poop and pee). Simply sit, let it go, clean, flush, and get on with your day. So how did this once “harmless” toilet seat lead me to the conclusion that it may be what causes lower back pain?

Well, it’s simple really. I speak to a lot of people about their backs. I’ve seen broken backs, disc herniations, sciatica, major back surgeries, and more. If there’s any cause for back pain I’ve probably seen it. Good thing is, I’m willing to ask virtually any question. One I like asking is “how much time do you spend on the toilet?”, followed by “I need an honest answer as this will help my findings”.

Why I’m Blaming the Toilet for your Low Back Pain

If there was a checklist based on what causes lower back pain, the toilet seat would top the list. It’s what I describe as the perfect storm for creating low back issues. Here you have an object that you must awkwardly sit on for extended periods of time. It’s not an ideal seated position either as it compresses the area of your glutes where your sciatic nerve sits. 

And don’t even get me started on the hunched posture you creep into while sitting. Worst of all, you do a lot of pushing through your guts and glutes when taking care of business especially if you’re constipated. This can put a lot of stress on a back that is already in a terrible position to begin with.

Can We Prevent Low Back Pain Caused by Toilets?

Undoubtedly! You’ll need to modify a few things to make your toileting experience a pain-free one.

If you can use all of the following tips, you won’t be asking what causes lower back pain anymore… you’ll be teaching others how you fixed it.

TIP #1: Change the Toilet Seat

Smaller seats are a problem. Have you ever stepped off a toilet only to find that your leg is numb and ready to fall off? A wider seat evenly distributes pressure on your buttocks. Using a better seat can protect important nerve structures that run down the leg. This puts them at a lower risk of compression, preventing problems like sciatica and herniated discs. Conclusion: choose seats that more thoroughly and evenly support your butt, and live on with healthier legs another day.

TIP #2: Decrease the Time Spent Sitting

Take a less is more approach for this. The less you can sit on this awkward toilet seat, the more you can protect your back. I know they call it a “restroom” but don’t treat it as such. Get in, take care of business, get out. Don’t fall victim to the impulse of bringing your phone out. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can lose track of time. Before you know it, you’ll lose feeling in your feet again. Conclusion: minimize the time you spend sitting on the toilet seat.

TIP #3: Fix the Sitting Posture

Did you know that your sitting posture can influence how well you poop? Biomechanically, a slouched posture makes pushing out bowels (aka “poo”) more difficult. However, the moment you straighten your back, lift your tailbone and lean forward, the opposite is true. Why is that the case? It comes down to the anus. It’s more relaxed when our spine is more upright and our tailbone is flicked up. A relaxed anus will allow you to more easily poop. Conclusion: Maintain an upright back and lean forward when using the toilet.  

TIP #4: Use Extra Tools

If you want to upgrade your sitting posture, get a toilet foot stand. It’s a stand that fits around the base of the toilet, allowing you to prop your feet up. In this position, you’ll be forced to squat which sounds weird but hear me out. Having your feet and knees elevated does a couple of helpful things. First, your thighs will compress your abdomen, creating better pressure to pass the poop. Second, your anus will be relaxed which we know will help as well. There’s a reason why much of the world still squats above a hole when they need to go. Conclusion: Prop your feet up with the help of a toilet stand. 

Become a Toilet-Sitting Expert

The toilet doesn’t have to destroy your back. Change the way use it will help eliminate a lot of the problems we spoke of. Again this is one potential source of pain. Figuring out what causes lower back pain ultimately comes down to paying attention to what you do. It’s sometimes the things you least expect that can be causing the most damage.