Most people will experience lower back pain at some stage in their life. With the recent restrictions in peoples' ability to access their normal recreation, gyms, and changes in routine caused by COVID, and the advent of many people working from home at kitchen table offices (as I am doing now), it is not surprising that we are seeing increasing rates of people reporting back pain.
With the advent of COVID, I have returned to doing some work in a hospital Emergency Department, and beyond some bumps and scrapes of stir-crazy kids accompanied by tired parents, there has been a significant increase in people presenting with acute, often debilitating lower back pain. Given this, I thought that it may be helpful to look at some strategies to help prevent and alleviate lower back pain.
How can I relieve lower back pain?
In most cases, lower back pain is associated with a good recovery and while the associated pain is often significant, long term injury and disability are relatively rare outcomes in lower back pain. Helping people to recognise this, encouraging them to remain active and promoting a positive outlook, is not only evidence-based advice but also helps combat the often significant fear and large amounts of misinformation available.
The great irony of lower back pain, and many other injuries for that matter, is that excessively protecting, resting, of avoidance based management, are often associated with poorer long-term outcomes and greater pain. It is now recognised and recommended by most doctors and physiotherapists alike that those who suffer from lower back pain continue to exercise, use their back within limits of manageable pain and develop the surrounding muscles to help manage the pain.
We have all heard of people getting acute back pain with simple movements, like putting on socks, sneezing and so on, and it can feel that the onset of this pain is random, however, the reality is that these random events are often associated with periods of sustained increased loading, deficiencies in recovery, sleep, poorer nutrition and increased levels of stress.
As with all injuries, the best back pain is the one that does not happen. Listed below are some simple stretches and mobility activities that may help prevent back pain. Please remember if you are already experiencing discomfort, or experience any discomfort with these activities they may not be right for you and you may be better served by making contact with a physiotherapist directly. Remember that we are offering free Friday telehealth consults until the easing of restrictions so please reach out if you have any questions.
#1 - Child’s Pose
● This is an easy yoga pose that can help stretch your back muscles. Kneel on all fours (on your knees and hands). Make sure that your arms are aligned under your shoulders.
● Slowly shift your body backward, moving your buttocks closer to your heels, and gently let the back curve
● Keep your hands in place, and as you shift your body backward, your arms will end raised above your head.
#2 - Press-up Back Extensions (Cobra)
● Lie down in a prone position (on your stomach) with your hands directly under your shoulders.
● Push down with your hands and arms to raise your shoulders away from the floor.
● The aim to raise as far as is comfortable, and keep the movement slow and smooth.
#3 - Knee to Chest
● Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted flat on the floor.
● Keep the left foot flat on the floor as you put your right knee up to your chest. Try to make sure your lower back stays flat against the floor.
● Lower your right knee and even it out by repeating the same procedure with the left leg.
#4 - Glute Stretch
● Lie down on your back with your legs out straight.
● Raise your right knee up towards the left shoulder, and gently grasp with the hands.
● Lower your right leg, and repeat on the left-hand side.
● Different portions of the glutes can be stretched by slightly changing the angle of the raised knee - hunt around to find the right angle for you.
The best injury is the one that does not happen, and helping to prevent lower back pain does not have to be difficult. Stretches alone will not always prevent back pain, but the can be a valuable tool and useful way to check-in without own body.
If you’re looking for more advice, please do not hesitate to contact our physiotherapy clinic.
Please note, due to COVID-19, Form + Function have reduced our clinic hours, but free telehealth consultations are available every Friday and Saturday - it's our small contribution to getting the community through COVID together.