Addressing Back Pain
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 the exercises I’ve included here.
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 should reinstate some kind of movement (anything that isn’t painful…try walking or doing light movement to start).
When working with clients who have developed pain, I assess the root causes of their problem. We work on treating them in our sessions and then creating exercises the client can continue to do on their own. In our sessions, the clients learn the proper form for exercises they can maintain.
Many clients know about doing common core exercises like sit-ups, but aren’t familiar with exercises for the deep core muscles. We do simple exercises that work these muscles and create a more stable pelvis and, thus, a stronger lower back. 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).
I also work with clients during the rehabilitation process after surgery (shoulder, knee, hip, etc.) or an injury. The rehabilitation process is essential to recovering and not developing potentially lifelong pain and additional problems.
Sarah Trost is a physiotherapist and personal trainer specializing in sports medicine and rehabilitation. Sarah helps clients with rehabilitation, lymphatic drainage, personal training and chronic pain treatment at our downtown, Jing’an and Hongqiao locations.
#1: Roll your shoulders backwards for 2-3 minutes with breaks in between.
#2: Stand in front of your desk and put your hand on the desk, your fingertips pointing toward your body (if it´s too intense, bend the fingers over the edge).Try to put the whole palm on the desk. Now straighten your elbow as much as you can. If you can feel tension, keep this position for 20 seconds. If you have the feeling you could stretch more, keep the hand and elbow in position and move backwards with your body. Hold this for 20 seconds, two times.
#3: Stand in front of your desk and put the back of your hand on the desk. With the other hand, bend the fingers of the stretching arm and keep them bent. Now straighten your elbow again as much as you can and keep this position for 20 seconds. If you have the feeling you could stretch more, keep the hand and elbow position and move your body slightly backwards. Hold this 2 times for 20 seconds.
#4: Sit on the edge of your chair with an upright spine. Move your pelvis to the front and back to activate the core and back muscles and increase the metabolism in the disk. Do this for 2-3 minutes with breaks in between.