Lower back pain is an incredibly common complaint; approximately half of the UK adult population (49%) report low back pain for at least 24 hours over the course of a year, and an estimated 4 out of 5 adults will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. But as our time spent sat down increases, what exactly can we do to help manage this common condition?
Approximately 85% of back pain cases are defined as ‘non-specific’, meaning that there is no underlying disease or pathology causing the pain (such as a bulged disc or a spinal fracture), which means that many people do not know where their pain originates from, or what they can do to help themselves. Whilst it’s always a good idea to get a proper diagnosis from a professional, here are some easy tips to get you started with self-management and pain relief:
Sitting at a desk, working on a computer or looking at books for a long period of time often drives us into poor posture, which puts additional forces and pressures on our spine causing stiffness and aching. Take regular breaks to stand upright, correct your posture and go for a short walk to ease the discomfort. You can also try raising the height of your computer screen and adjusting your chair to help promote better spinal alignment and reduce muscular strains.
Among other things, sitting down for extended periods causes our hips flexors to become short and tight, reducing our range of movement and having a knock-on effect on the muscles surrounding the knees and lower back. Taking 5-10 minutes per day to stretch can help to combat tight muscles in your legs, back and neck, improve posture and relieve pain.
Regular exercise helps us to maintain a healthy weight (reducing the pressure on our spine), strengthens weak muscles and improves our balance and coordination. Proper training can also teach us safe and effective movement patterns, reducing the risk of further injury and protecting our backs during everyday life.
Perhaps the most important strategy in lower back pain management is the art of relaxation! Worrying about injury through certain movements can actually cause our bodies to stiffen up, creating additional muscular tension and even altered movement patterns, all of which can lead to additional muscle imbalances and an increased risk of injury. If you are concerned about what movements or exercises you should and shouldn’t be doing then the first thing to do is seek advice from an exercise specialist or physiotherapist.
The underlying message here is that lower back pain doesn’t have to be a life sentence, and there are many different management options available for you depending on the root cause of your pain. At JWC, we offer a free 20-minute lower back pain & postural assessment, designed to evaluate your limitations, assess your posture and give advice on how to best manage your pain moving forwards. Following your assessment, we will email over your personal pain management strategy and arrange a follow up appointment, as well as providing you with further information on what else we can do to help – speak to a coach to find out more!