Are you experiencing lower back pain or backache? Have you been to a chiropractor, doctor, massage therapist or acupuncturist, perhaps all, but none of the treatments seemed to work and the pain still persists? Maybe you've spent all your savings to plan a wellness getaway to Bali thinking you will recover completely, but to no avail?
Low back pain is a common condition seen by physiotherapists. Unfortunately, nearly everyone will experience low back pain in his or her lifetime. Fortunately, if you thoroughly understand why you're getting back pain and receive the correct treatment, then you are on the right track to fixing your back pain.
What We Need to Know About The Spine
The spine is a magnificent structure consisting of interconnecting bones, joints, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels and muscles working synchronously to provide strength, support and flexibility to our trunk. It is the backbone of our skeleton which is made out of five regions, namely the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccygeal. The top end of the spine, also known as the cervical, connects our neck to our head. On the other side, the bottom end of the spine, also known as the coccygeal, is our tail bone which together with the lumbar and sacral regions, connects our lower back to our pelvis. You can see why having back pain can have a big impact on our daily activities.
On an everyday basis, it helps us maintain our posture and enables us to work in different positions. Primarily the spine controls us in 4 primary movements - flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation; which essentially helps us bend forwards, backwards, sideways and turning around. Every time you sit, stand, walk, pick an object from the ground or reach for something, you're essentially commanding your spine to work for you in order to achieve a particular movement. The lower back supports the weight of the upper body, maintain our posture and are responsible for bending and twisting.
What Causes Low Back Pain?
Low back pain is not a specific disease but rather a symptom that may have been resulted from a number of underlying problems with varying degrees of seriousness. Majority of low back pain is commonly caused by mechanical problems such as sprains or strains which can happen suddenly or developed over time as a result of repetitive movements.
Strains happen when a muscle is stretched too far beyond its flexibility, causing micro tears in the muscle belly.
Sprains occur when the surrounding ligaments are overstretched, usually from a sudden quick movement, consequently putting stress on the bones attached to it.
There are a number of other factors that can result in lower back pain, such as obesity, sport injuries, pregnancy, wearing high heels, stress, sudden movements such as a fall, poor physical condition, poor posture, poor sleeping position or repetitive movements required for work.
As we grow older, our muscles lose strength and our spine loses flexibility. which makes us at higher risk to getting low back pain. Therefore, if we don't maintain an active lifestyle, our spine and the muscles surround it may not cope with the levels of activity that you once had no trouble with.
Obviously, if you had an impact to your back; for example, an accident, a sporting collision or a big fall, then sudden onset of back pain may indicate fracture. This is when you should probably present yourself to the emergency department.
Levels of Low Back Pain
There are 3 classifications of low back pain depending on the duration of pain. Initial pain that lasts less than 6 weeks is also known as acute pain. Any pain that lasts from 6 to 12 weeks will be classified as sub-acute. If your pain persists for more than 12 weeks, it has gone beyond the body's natural healing process and thus you will be diagnosed with chronic low back pain. Management and prognosis of your condition will vary for everyone depending on your motivation, tolerance and symptoms.
Just like when you experience a deep cut or bruise, it is important to treat it as soon as you have symptoms to avoid your lower back pain from aggravating.
The worse thing to do when you first experience low back pain is to stop being active and avoid the activity that initially caused you pain. When you stop being active, the muscles on your back that you normally require to perform the activity slowly loses its ability to function at its optimal level; so when you attempt at that activity next time, it will hurt even more and this can become a vicious cycle. What you should do is ease yourself back into the task as soon as possible. Initially, you may need pain relief to manage your pain but gradually you should feel that you are able to do more with lesser pain.
If you're in the middle of an activity and your pain suddenly came on, the first step is to stop what you're doing and analyse your movements. You may be overexerting yourself than usual and your body is not taking it well. Have a rest and apply a cold pack to the area which will help calm the nerves down. When the pain subsides, this is when you should commence some stretching exercises
Top 5 Exercises for Low Back Pain (Do this in order)
1. Child's Pose to Cobra (3 Stretches combined)
Prone lumbar flexion to extension stretch
Start on your hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Tighten your abdominal muscles, and round your back, looking down towards your knees. Lower your buttocks back onto your heels, stretching your arms out ahead of you. Return to the starting position, moving your gaze to look ahead and arch your back. Drop your hips forwards and onto the floor, further extending through your back and moving your gaze up towards the ceiling. Return to the start position and continue. Allow the movement to the flow.
Required equipment: Mat
Lie on your back with both knees bent. Hug one knee in towards your chest. Bring the other in to join it. Use your arms to hug the knees in as closely as you can manage comfortably.
Required equipment: Adjustable plinth, Mat
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place the ankle of one leg just above the knee of your other leg. Maintaining this position, rotate your legs over to the side of your elevated leg. You should feel a stretch in your buttocks and lower back. Hold this position.
Repeat on the other side.
Alternatively: If you aren't able to place your ankle over your other knee, keep both knees bent and rotate both knees over to your side.
Required equipment: Mat
These exercises for your lower back shouldn't take more than 15 minutes to complete. For anyone that leads a busy lifestyle, surely you take at least a 15 minute break every hour or so. Out of 24 hours in a day, 15 minutes is a good investment for getting rid of low back pain for the rest of your life.
These are the most basic exercises to alleviate low back pain that you can start with. Everyone is different and it is always highly recommended to consult a health professional, and in this case a qualified physiotherapist for personalised advise to your low back pain that works for you.
Pain can sometimes take weeks to months to recover and a gradual progressive recovery plan that a physiotherapist can provide will ensure that you receive a smooth rewarding journey. Travel Physio offers up to 3 months of complimentary 24/7 online follow up with each consultation as we know you might have questions regarding your program after your initial consultation and we would like to be there to answer them after hours too.
If you would like to book a session, click here to schedule a time. If you would like to enquire more, we also offer free information sessions. Simply book one here and our physiotherapists will ensure that you are well looked after.
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What exercises have you discovered to be useful for your lower back pain?