Non-specific lower back pain can be troublesome and is more prevalent than you think. It effects over 80% of the adult Singaporean population at some time in their lives (Sing Health) and up to 60% of people in their adult life worldwide (WHO). It is one of the leading problems resulting in unemployment and disability when chronic. However there are a few changes that can be made to our lifestyle to relieve some of the causes of back pain.
1. Knowing when to Seek Help
Knowing the severity of your symptoms can help to identity the kind of health professional to engage as a first point of contact. In the acute stage (24-72 hours) pain can be intense, especially if the cause was due to trauma or a disc related injury. Seeking the advice of a medical professional is essential if you experience all or some of the following symptoms:
- Pain that can keep you up at night
- Severe pain which limits your daily functions
- A loss of bladder and or bowel control
- A significant reduction of strength/ power in the legs or back
- Severe numbness
Please consult a doctor as these are often suggestive of a more serious underlying problem.
For back pain of a less serious nature, there is light at the end of the tunnel! Here at the Moving Body our experienced Pilates instructors and or Pilates trained Physiotherapists are at hand to help relieve that pain! But here are a few other changes that you could make for a healthy and happy back.
How many times have you found yourself slumped at your desk or sofa, or standing more on one leg than the other? Adverse postures can have a significant effect on your joints. Incorrect sitting or standing postures can contribute towards compression of the lower back. Over a period of time a poor posture can result in secondary muscle changes such as lengthening of the gluteal muscles and shortening/lengthening of the lower back muscles. Simple changes such as a chair that allows for support of the natural curve of your spine can help to reduce additional stress in the lower back. Alternatively using a lumbar role or towel can make a world of a difference to giving your back the support that it needs.
3. Core Control
Although the jury is not conclusive on the literature surrounding the science behind lower back pain and core stability, it is still a very important component of back strength. The core is made up for 4 key muscles, which align the spine and form a corset and hammock like structure that supports the spine and torso. These stabilizing muscles lie deep to the bigger muscles or the prime movers, to keep the spine stable and reduce excessive or potentially damaging movement. Not sure where your core muscles lie or how to activate them? Pilates is a great way to gain awareness and build up your core strength, and for those with a longer history of back pain a physiotherapist can help to work with you to regain function.
4. Muscle Balance
Short and tight muscles can be a source of pain. We all know what it feels like to have developed areas of tension, which may be rather uncomfortable to release via massage. The muscles in the lower back can be prone to tightness, especially the muscles on either side of the lower back called the quadratus lumborum and the parapinals , which are common sites for trigger points and referred pain patterns. Stretching or manual release can help to relieve this tension.
5. Keep it Moving!
Pain can be the start of a downward spiral for inactivity, which in turn can be a source of pain, so it is important to break this cycle. If you are having any of the more serious symptoms above then gentle exercises should be prescribed and monitored by a healthcare professional, as it is still important to strengthen the surrounding areas. If you imagine the muscles in the back of your body as a chain, and one part of the chain has a problem it is likely to affect the other muscles in the chain; this is why conditioning is important to maintain overall health. Exercises such as swimming or walking through water can be extremely beneficial as the water will give resistance to movement, strengthen several large muscle groups whilst weight bearing is reduced by up to 60%. Keeping active is also a great way to keep your weight controlled another factor that will increase the stress on the joints!
Article written by Rebecca Taylor, Physiotherapist