Have you found that while washing your hair over the sink, you must repeatedly straighten to relieve the pain in your low back?
Certain exercises will make the situation more tolerable.
For the people who experience this problem, the obvious solution of washing one’s hair in the shower isn’t always appealing.
So let’s put that obvious solution aside and focus on how to prevent or minimize low back pain when bending over the sink to wash one’s hair.
The “pain” is more like an aching or soreness, but if it’s accompanied by tingling or shooting-type pains that stop you dead in your tracks, you should see a doctor.
Otherwise, low back ache when sustaining the bent-over position to wash one’s hair in the sink is actually very normal.
It arises because the low back (lumbar muscles) is called on to perform a function that it is not designed to do: carry a load.
The lumbar or erector spinae muscles are small in structure and designed for stabilizing the spine.
This is why they hurt when they are forced to carry a load. They are NOT designed for force production.
Though maintaining a bent-over position over the sink may not sound like force production or carrying a load, the erector spinae muscles would beg to differ.
This position puts a strain on them, causing them to absorb forces beyond what they were intended to.
As you maintain the bent-over position, the length of your torso, combined with your head, acts as a resistance “arm” to the pivot point or fulcrum, which is your low back.
People with long torsos, relative to the length of their legs (regardless of overall body height) will tend to feel more aching in their low back while bent over the sink.
If you’re really tall, however, you’ll be forced to bend over more, which will make things even more uncomfortable.
Is there a solution to this problem
other than washing one’s hair in the shower?
The stronger and more durable your core is, the less aching you’ll feel while sustaining the trunk flexion.
However, being able to deadlift 275 x 5 will not do a whole lot to make the sustained spinal flexion more comfortable.
Nevertheless, as a former personal trainer, I do recommend incorporating deadlifts into your fitness plan to help. They need not be heavy, just consistent.
A big brute who deadlifts 415 can hurt in the lower back while washing his hair just as much as a little aerobics instructor who deadlifts only 60 pounds.
You need an overall core regimen, one in which duration is part of the plan, not just brief lifts of heavy weight.
I deadlift 245 for reps yet must briefly straighten out a few times while washing my hair – though I do take time to lather up and rinse two or three times, then add a conditioner and rinse that as well.
If you take up yoga, which involves sustained core-recruiting positions, this will help tremendously.
I do yoga moves in between some strength training sets, but an entire yoga class will be much better.
Four Exercises to Reduce Low Back Pain when Bending Over the Sink to Wash Hair
I don’t do barbell bent-over rows, but as a former personal trainer, I’d have to say that making these a part of your exercise regimen will help make your lumbar region more tolerant to sustained flexion. Do 12-15 reps.
Another exercise that may help blunt the aching is the “good-morning.” Start out with the lightest barbell possible (many gyms have 20 lb. bars, and even five pounders) and do 12 to 15 reps.
Third, you may want to try back extensions using back extension apparatus. Do not hyperextend your back.
Go only as high as making your entire body in a straight line. Going slightly past this is okay, but don’t overextend. Do 15 to 20 reps.
“One of the easiest things to do is to engage the lower core stabilizers,” says Dr. Tom Carpenter, corrective exercise specialist, certified personal trainer and chiropractor, inventor of Stand Corrected™, a portable harness-like stretching tool that helps alleviate back, neck and shoulder pain.
“Imagine a spot one inch below the navel and pull it towards the spine. Practice holding this isometric contraction while breathing normally.
“This engages the abdominal core stabilizers and protects the lower back when bending forward.”
For all first three exercises, increase resistance over time as 20 reps become easy. For the back extensions, hold a plate or dumbbell to your chest.
Despite developing a strong and durable core, you may still experience back discomfort or aching while bending over to wash your hair in the sink.
This is because, as mentioned, the erector spinae muscles were not designed to sustain resistance in this position.
Used daily and over time, the Stand Corrected™ stretching tool can reverse back damage caused by years of poor posture.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.