Do you suffer from lower back pain? Studies show that there is a good chance that almost everyone will suffer from it at some point in their lives. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how fit or unfit you are, there’s a good chance you could be affected by it.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimated that 194,000 cases were self-reported in 2016/17 and that 3.2 million working days were lost, an average of 16.5 days per case and that fixed or constrained body positions was mentioned as a contributing factor.
Sitting down behind a computer then.
Everyone is different in terms of symptoms they’ll experience and longevity of the problem. One thing that connects everyone though is that lower back pain is bloody sore and very debilitating!
How can we help prevent it or reduce how it affects us? Read on…
The first step is to get a diagnosis so you know exactly what is going on. For this, I would recommend going to see your GP and then/or a Physiotherapist. There are so many possibilities that you need a proper diagnosis from a medical professional and not Google. Once you know what you’re dealing with, now you need to know how to treat it.
Assuming it’s a musculoskeletal problem, the answer is simple. Move more. Walking is a very good exercise as it’s gentle and it gets your upper back and hips rotating more (a natural occurrence when you walk or run) and the back tends to respond well to this kind of movement. Make sure you swing your arms rather than keeping them in your pockets.
I’ve been affected by back problems since 1997 and even after changing careers to get into fitness and becoming more active, I continued to get recurrences of the problem 2-3 times a year until 2 things happened that had a positive effect on my back. The first was working with a good physiotherapist and the second was learning more about how the body moves.
My problem was a disc in my lower back that had slipped out of position and would lead to muscles spasms, restricted movement and a lot of pain. As a Personal Trainer, I believed my back and core muscles to be reasonably strong so it couldn’t be down to muscle weakness. The physio used the analogy of when you squeeze a tube of toothpaste, the toothpaste comes out the other end so in order to get the disc back in, I had to do movements the opposite of how my body was positioned (leaning to one side) in order to get it back in place.
Here’s a video with one exercise he gave me along with a similar one I created myself:
A few years ago, I signed up to a course with Faster and this is where I learned more about movement. This wasn’t just about muscle actions, it was how the bones and joints moved. This changed everything from what I learned before but it was exciting and more importantly, it made a difference in resolving the problems I was experiencing as well as helping my clients move better.
Exercise is good at helping ease the problems and it’s important to make sure the exercises are based around specific movements. In the video above, I’m taking the same kind of movement pattern but working it from the hips and also from the upper back.
Doing these exercises along with a traditional one like back extensions from a face down position and pushing up onto the hands has made biggest difference in treating my latest episode and has reduced the recovery time from a week to just a few days. In the exercises in the video, I’m not trying to stretch any muscle, I’m trying to retrain the movement my body has been struggling with.
Sit Less Move More
The biggest learning in all this for me is that I need to sit less and move more. We all need to sit less and move more! I’ve been guilty of sitting down doing ‘stuff’ lately instead of doing my own workouts and so this latest episode has been a wake up call for me in the same way the very first one did.
Here are some more exercises to build into your day going forward. It’s not just about going to the gym or going for the odd run, we need to move more on a regular basis. Doing these exercises 2-3 times a day could potentially help you increase your mobility and make bouts of back pain less frequent.
Do you suffer from back pain? What have you done to try to help? Has it worked?
Try the exercises and let me know how you get on with them.