Back pain is a normal occurrence which on average happens once or twice a year. The back, as with any other part of the body, is made up of bones, ligaments and muscles and these structures can from time to time become injured, sore, strained and sprained and take a few weeks to repair, says Kathryn Stene.
As spring approaches, many people will be tempted to spend long hours in a sunny garden and this is a classic example. They will be bending, reaching, lifting and twisting, and although these are very normal and natural things to do, if the back isn’t used to this form of exercise you can expect to be sore afterwards.
So what can we do to prevent or minimise this?
Backs love to move. Movement of joints keeps them healthy by improving blood flow, stretching tissues and getting nutrients into joints. By regularly moving the back the tissues, joints, muscles and ligaments become stronger and more able to tolerate the odd burst of enthusiasm that comes with Spring and sunshine.
Regularly moving the back as a daily routine is a brilliant way to keep your back in good health. There are many movements that will be suitable and if you haven’t had severe back pain or injury in the past then movements like touching toes, standing side bends and twists and arching backwards can work well. Repeating the movements ten times will warm up the back prior to exercise and cool it down afterwards.
So why do some backs stay sore for more than a few weeks and if so what can you do about it?
Most persistent back pain is due to discs in the lower back losing height. When young discs are tall and full of water, their job is to keep the spine bones apart, give bounce to the spine and help make the back strong. Age, being still for long periods of time (think sitting at a desk) and environmental factors can make the discs lose some of their water.
This weakens the discs and can sometimes end in injury and pain. The pain can come from lots of different structures including the discs themselves (these injuries are things like disc bulges, herniations and slipped discs) the joints in the back (called facet joints) or things like muscles, nerves (called sciatica), ligaments and bones. To determine exactly which structures are causing pain is often a mystery that medical science is desperately trying to solve.
Discs and nerves can be very painful structures when injured and although it’s normal for discs to wear with age, if they wear quickly or become injured in an accident, they can take 1-2 years to heal. In these cases the back still needs to move but in a more controlled and supported way, using core muscles to prevent flare-ups. This is where a specialised set of exercises, designed specifically for the individual, is necessary to allow the back to heal and become strong again.
These exercises are often started in lying and involve bringing on a set of muscles called ‘core muscles’. Core muscles are a combination of deep abdominals, the diaphragm, the pelvic floor and deep spinal muscles. They protect the back from excessive movement and strain.
Before starting a program of core strengthening exercises, if you have back pain it is advisable to see a specialist spine physiotherapist to test your movement and strength and have them design the perfect program for returning your back to the healthy strong structure it should be.
Other important things to do are relatively easy and form part of a healthy lifestyle – eating plenty of Omega 3 fats (found in fish, nuts, seeds) plenty of green vegetables for essential nutrients and minerals, limit sugar and highly processed foods and drink plenty of water.
Remember your back is a strong, stable part of your body and if you look after it with plenty of movement it should stay that way.
If you need a helping hand to get moving or build the strength of your core, call Physio 1to1 on 01483 424470 to arrange an assessment with one of our amazing team of specialist physiotherapists to get you stronger and moving today.