Lower back pain affects most adults at some stage in their life. While it can be very frustrating and uncomfortable, for most people optimising the way we move and taking care of our bodies can help to get the pain under control – and get us back to doing what we love.
With this in mind, here are some tips for managing lower back pain:
- Get a clear diagnosis or understanding of the cause of your back pain as there are many different reasons. Some are appropriate for physiotherapy and others need further assessment.
- Engage in an active recovery – for most people staying active is crucial to a speedy recovery. This may simply mean going for regular short walks in the day, but for others a more specific series of exercises may be helpful.
- Ensure you have an ergonomic (comfortable and well designed) seating arrangement if you are spending time at the computer or reading. The chair must be well-fitted for your body, and the desk and monitor at the appropriate height. Sit-stand desks can also be useful.
- Ensure you’re including a healthy variety of movement in your day that includes mobility/flexibility, strengthening and some cardiovascular exercise. Balance is the key. Our bodies are designed to move in a 3D way so variety keeps movement options open, which helps to keep your spine healthy.
- Work with your healthcare team to come up with a management plan. This may include medication, heat therapy, exercise prescription, manual therapy (such as physio or myotherapy) and activity modification.
We know that exercise is effective for management of chronic lower back pain. However, there is no one-size-fits-all exercise as our bodies are all unique. There is no magic pill exercise.
Looking after your back requires getting to know your own body and how you move, so you can do exercises that help to balance things out for you as an individual.
That said, there are some movements that are commonly useful. We sit in chairs more than ever before, which means we lose the mobility in our hips and upper backs. Not engaging in regular movements of the spine and opening the chest can cause stiffness in the spinal joints.
CASE STUDY – Barry
Barry had a bad back for years. He thought he was just getting old and a stiff, and a sore back was just something he had to accept in his 75-year-old body. He was, however, getting a bit down as he couldn’t nurse his new grandchild or ride his bike.
His daughter suggested he try some physio, as it had really helped her to recover after having her first child.
So, Barry contacted a physio recommended by his friend and booked in an appointment.
The physio was able to visit Barry in his own home, perform a thorough assessment and make a goal and treatment plan.
Barry made some modifications to his lifestyle and daily movement habits, started a tailored rehab exercise program and committed to it for three months. After this time he was feeling much less stiff and sore, got back to riding his bike with minimal discomfort (and he had strategies for if he did experience pain) and – much to his delight – could bounce his granddaughter on his knee and not be hampered by his back.
1. Wall angel
- Stand with your back up against the wall.
- Your feet may be 10cm or so away from the wall.
- Bring your arms up into a cactus position (90 degree at shoulder and elbows).
- Aim for arms to touch the wall but it is OK if they don’t make it.
- Hold this position for 5 deep breaths; repeat 3-5 times.
2. Gluteal stretch
- Sitting towards the front of your seat, cross right leg into a figure 4 position over left thigh.
- Keep spine upright and tilt forwards at the hips.
- Hold for 5-10 deep breaths; repeat other side.
- Perform 3-5 times each side.
3. Hip extension
- Stand in front of a chair, with hands gently resting for balance if needed.
- Bend your right knee and press your thigh backwards/behind you (hip extension).
- Repeat 10 x each leg; perform 2 sets.
4. Connecting into deep postural muscles
- Use your breathing to connect to your deep muscle system.
- Inhale to prepare before you go to stand, then exhale as you go from sitting to standing. This can help connect you into the deep muscles in the pit of your belly/along the spine that help to support your back as you move.
- Repeat throughout the day as you go from sitting to standing.
We hope this helps you to better understand what you can do to help address any sore back issues you may be experiencing. To find out more, feel free to contact a trained TPC physiotherapist by calling us on 1300 797 793.
Article written by Johanna Cornish, TPC physiotherapist