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So many people suffer from back aches or pains. Some suffer in silence, some very much not in silence. An estimated 3 million people are off sick from work with back pain every year. But it doesn’t need to be this way. So much of the back pain we see in our clinics is avoidable with just some simple advice. Those already with no back will do well to heed this advice. Those already with back pain would be crazy not to act on it!
This advice has been born out 12 years worth of experience dealing with all kinds of back problems. From the most severe to the slightly annoying. I have been inspired by the popularity of our 6 Top Tips To Avoid Knee Pain. So without further ado here’s the much awaited sequel 6 Best Tips For A Lifetime Free From Back Pain. Drum roll please…
1. Take A Chill Pill!
Relaxed people don’t get back pain! Ok well maybe they do but stress plays a massive part in the amount of pain we feel. Most people we see with severe back pain have normally been through, or are still going through a time of increased stress levels. Physical, emotional or both. Those who just have a stressed outlook to life are especially at risk.
Does this mean you’re making it up in your head? Well yes, but no. All pain is a multi input response to stimuli throughout the body. Those stimuli include the local tissues where you feel the pain but it’s so much more complex than that. Stress just makes us feel everything more. The expression my nerves are frayed sums things up nicely. To imply that the nerves just feel things more.
If you’d like to read more about the affect of stress on how we feel our aches and pain check our previous post 50 Shades of Pain.
2. Do Exercise
The effect of exercise on any injury is well documented. It has been shown to be particularly effective in chronic (more than 6 weeks) low back pain. This piece of research confirms this. It does however state that it is unproven in cases of acute back pain i.e. when it first happens.
In my practical experience I would tend to disagree. Certainly the people who keep mobile when they first encounter lots of pain seem to fair better than those who freeze and are too scared to do anything. These maybe two extreme examples but if you can find some kind of exercise or movement. Even if it’s just walking. That doesn’t aggravate your symptoms then I strongly suggest you do it. We see many cases where working through an amount of discomfort can ease the pain as muscles loosen and joint gain mobility. I would however, advise against ploughing through lots of pain until you’ve been properly assessed by a trained professional.
Oh and maybe Rugby and American Football may not be the best forms of exercise in the short term!
3. Don’t do core exercise!
Controversial I know. Our regular readers and clients will have seen our post questioning the virtues of core exercise. Now I’m not saying that it definitely won’t help but this interesting piece of research confirms if it does help it’s not any more than any other kind of exercise.
It will actually work for some people simply because they are doing something different. They are changing their strategy about movement. However, more frequently we find it makes no difference to their condition and in many cases actually makes it worse. This can particularly be the case if your one who believes sit ups are a) a core exercise and b) will be good for low back pain. You’re very wrong on both counts. Why would you want to train a muscles that pulls you into a more flexed position?
All that has to happen is the muscles that counter act this force i.e. the back muscles have more work to do. Which they’re already doing, so they work harder and become more painful.
4. Sort Your Posture Out!
This picture made me chuckle. It sums up so many of us. If you look around the office how many people do you see in this kind of posture? Is this the way you sit?
A well used Physiotherapy principle is what we called adaptive shortening. In plain English this simply means if you put a muscle in a short tight position it thinks it should stay there.
If we consider this image the muscles at the front of the body keep pulling you down and forward meaning the muscles that oppose that movement in your back have to work extra hard to keep you upright. They over work, tire, tighten and then finally cause you pain.
5. Pull A Half Moon!
I shall resist the temptation for obvious puns. I will let you make your own ones up! Regular readers / clients will laugh at this one as it’s our one stop fixes all exercise. For all kinds of injuries for all kinds of reasons. Now is not the time for a bio-mechanical debate on why or how this should be. Just take our word for it. This just feels like the right thing to do.
I’m hoping it’s pretty obvious as to the origin of the name. Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute to get a stretch on the opposite side of your back to the direction of your movement. If you get pain when you get to certain point ease off a little so that it’s just a stretch. It’s not a competition to see how far you can get, it’s more about making it feel good and nice. If you really can’t move into this position without any pain then you really need to come and see us!
6. Let It All Hang Out
Super simple exercise and yet so effective. It stretches out those muscles we were talking about getting tight at the front of your body and putting more strain on those poor overworked muscles in your back.
Here we’ve shown the full version of the exercise performed over a treatment couch. Not many of you will have one of those so we recommend a Swiss Ball to arch across. Many of you will find this too difficult and or uncomfortable. Not to mention the peculiar feeling of all the blood rushing to your head. For these people simply lay back across your bed at home with your arms over head. It should feel pretty damn good and very relaxing. Especially after a long hard day!
As you can see none of these tips or exercises are rocket science. Just simple sound advice gleaned from 12 years of fixing dodgy backs. Many of them come from similar bio-mechanics and we’ve tried to give you the best advice for the most common sources of back pain.
If you’d like more information on how we can help with your back pain then click to our back pain page. If you’d like some more exercises for your back pain check our Back Pain Exercises page. For those who are too impatient or in too much pain and want to feel better straight away. You know where we are!
This article first appeared on our Brighton site.