Addressing Back Pain
The majority of people getting physiotherapy treatments suffer from low back and cervical spine pain (and related conditions like sciatica, tinnitus, headaches), mostly due to a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting too long at the office and commuting, with little movement and exercise, causes many of them to have muscle imbalances. Almost everyone experiencing this type of pain has weak core muscles.
Some things you can do every day to keep muscles balanced and avoid the likelihood of pain:
- Plan some exercise into every day. Do what you enjoy to stay motivated. You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym. Consider walking, riding a bike to work, or taking classes such as yoga or dance.
- Move around as much as possible when you’re at the office. Take short breaks to stand and stretch. Move in your chair too, by shifting positions, rolling your shoulders back or rolling your pelvis.
- Stretch/move areas that start to feel tight. People commonly hunch their shoulders and jut their neck forward when working at a computer, so roll your shoulders back and be aware of your positioning at your desk. Elbow and wrist problems are also common when working on the computer, so try to adjust your position.
When you have pain, it is important to treat it as soon as possible. This way you can address the cause and do some targeted exercises to keep it from worsening.
Most importantly, do not let pain keep you from moving for long periods. Resting too long is one of the worst things you can do, as it only allows pain to become chronic. The electric impulses in the spinal cord change and hold onto patterns of pain, even if the cause is no longer present. You may need to avoid high intensity activity when in pain and rest briefly, but this generally should not be longer than 1-2 days. Then, you can reinstate some kind of movement (anything that isn’t painful…try walking or doing light movement to start).
Many clients know about doing common core exercises like sit-ups, but aren’t familiar with exercises for the deep core muscles. Simple exercises that work these muscles as well as exercises creating a more stable pelvis and, thus, a stronger lower back all help prevent injuries. One example: lie on your back with hands placed under your lower back (to feel that you maintain proper positioning—not lifting the lower back to do the work) with legs lifted 90° in hips and knees. Keep the 90° flexion in your knees and try to touch the floor with toes or heel with alternating legs without moving the lower back or pelvis (no movement under your hands).
Creating a strong core is essential to prevent back pain and minimize the risk of injuries. If you feel pain or wish to work with a physiotherapist to strengthen your core muscles, get in touch with us! Having worked with the national swimming team for 3 years, Dongyu is specialized in sports medicine and rehabilitation as well as in injury prevention. He offers consultations on Saturday in our Century Park Clinic – Pudong.