Unfortunately backs are a real pain! It is thought that between 60-80% of the population experience lumbar back pain (peak performance, 2011). Backs are an extremely complex structure and any problems should be diagnosed by a professional osteopath, chiropractor, or physiotherapist. However evidence suggests that it is a misconception that there is nothing you can do but rest. Most common lumbar back pain derives from a sprain, a strain, an acute trauma incident or overtraining. This can often be due to an underlying weakness. That weakness can often be a lack of core strength or a lack of mobility around the joints. This can consequently lead to a cycle of immobility in which other muscle groups compensate for an underlying weakness. This imbalance increases the risk of further injury.
What can you do?
1. Free the mind from negative energy! Sounds a bit ‘hippy’ but being positive and proactive about recovering from any injury or illness is half the battle.
2. If injury is acute take anti-inflammatory drugs such as nurofen/ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation.
3. If it’s muscular use contrast bathing to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation. Two minutes hot, two minutes cold x 5 to affected area.
4. Hydrotherapy Hot tub with Bay spas or sports or holistic massage with Hands on clinic or a qualified sports masseur. (Andy Bwye, Lee Weston)
5. Nutrition – Empirical and anecdotal research suggests that dietary changes can reduce inflammation and provide essential nutrients and hydration to discs (LaserSpineinstitute, 2012). From this it can be inferred that if the disc has more water in it a bigger gap will occur between the facet joints reducing risk of an impinging nerve. Eat omega 3/6 fatty acids. (fish, nuts, olives, avocados) and avoid too much processed and packaged food or dairy.
6. Protect. It’s too easy to get fed up with being injured and come back to early. I did it myself in my mid twenties and spent a year with the same recurring back problem. Only return to your sport when you have full range of motion pain free.
7. Stretch & Strengthen Light stretching even in the acute stage of an injury can aid circulation, provide essential nutrients for spine, and avoid seizing up!
- Arm raise (sideways x 10, forwards x 10, up and rotate x 10) All planes of movement.
- Core Ball or chair knee raise. (working illiopsoas muscle). Sitting on a ball or a chair hold your hips and keep your whole body still and raise one knee up and then stop before it hits the floor. Do 50 on each side.
- Pelvic clock. Lay on your back with your feet elevated on a chair. Rotate your pelvis to 12 o clock then 6 o clock keeping your hips on the floor at all times. Repeat 3 sets of 20 repetitions.
- Prone Superman – Lying face down on the floor extend your left arm and your right leg. Keeping your hips and lumbar spine down at all times extend through thoracic spine (top of your back). 3 x 12 each side. For an extension come onto your knees and with intra abdominal pressure repeat the exercise maintaining alignment in your pelvis and strength in the arm and leg. (I call this Hitlers Dog)
- Side leg raises – come onto your right elbow, bend your knees bringing your heels to your glutes. Push your hips up exhale and raise your left leg, inhale and bring it back down. 3 x 12 both sides.
- Chair Hamstring stretch. Put your foot on a chair and lean forward until you feel a good stretch in your hamstring. Hold for 1 minute increasing the stretch as you breathe out. Stretching your hamstrings in this way puts less pressure on the sciatic nerve which if impinged by a disc can lead to back, glute, and leg pain. Increased hamstring mobility will take pressure off of the back. Strengthening the core will create more space for the nerves and strengthen erector spinae muscles surrounding vertebrae to protect your spine.
- Glute stretch. Lye on your back with your legs bent and elevated. Bring your left ankle to your right knee. Use your breathing to increase the stretch by pulling your leg into your ankle and pushing your ankle into your knee. This can help release a deep glute muscle called the piriformis which can take pressure off of your back and hips.
- Plank. Engage your pelvic floor and glutes and plank for 3 sets of 30secs/1/2 minutes depending on your level.
- Swim Kicks. Lie face down in a prone position. Keeping your hips and lumbar spine on the ground bring your legs up fully extended and kick for 3 x 20 seconds.
- Cycle and Swim. Low impact sports can aid back rehabilitation.
8. Prehab – Take up yoga/pilates and develop core strength. In my own experience increasing mobility around my hamstring joints and getting into yoga and developing core strength has greatly alleviated back pain and recurrent back problems.Disclaimer: I’m not a physiotherapist or a doctor so cannot diagnose injuries. However I can help to protect, stretch, and strengthen key areas to make you stronger and less likely to suffer pain and injury. See www.bayfitness.co.uk for more info.