Back problems are experienced by almost everyone at some point in their life, whether you have a sedentary job, or a physical job, solving back problems doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are our 5 tip tips to avoid those back problems.
#1 – Strengthen your core
Now to do this you don’t need to visit a gym, the best way to strengthen your core is to sit on an unstable object. Your core muscles are designed to hold your pelvis in a straight position relative to your spine. When this interaction goes wrong the pelvis can tip in a forward (anterior) or backwards (posterior) position, leading to pain. The core muscles are known as stabiliser muscles, lots of little receptors inform the muscles when movement occurs, so when we sit on an unstable object they react and switch on those muscles.
#2 - Purchase a stability cushion or Exercise ball
To get those muscles working everyday replace your desk chair with an exercise ball or place a stability cushion on your existing chair. Being air filled, these are unstable in nature, so for you to sit on them your body has to stabilise and to do that it has to activate the core. This equipment is easily purchased online for little money. Build up the amount of time you sit on these, as, like any other muscle the core needs to build up its strength before you ask it to work all day long.
#3 – Strengthen your back muscles
Within your back there are tiny little muscles that sit between each vertebra. Their job is to maintain the correct spacing in the spine. If these muscles don’t work the vertebrae sit too closely together, this can lead to disk issues, facet joint issues and even nerve issues. If you have ever been told you have a bulging disk or facet joint arthritis, then these muscles aren’t doing their job properly and need to be strengthened. So how can we train those?
Well, that exercise ball we discussed in point 2, well once you can sit on it without pain or wobbling around, it is time to bring the stabilisers of the spine into play. So sitting on the ball, try to lift one leg into the air, (see the picture below) and balance without twisting or falling off! Try not to lean back like the lady in the picture, keep an upright posture. This will mean the whole spine and pelvis stabilisers need to switch on and stop you falling off!
#4 – Strengthen your upper back
If we sit at a desk all day, use a phone all day, type at a computer all day, the muscles at the front of our shoulders, knows as the pecs over-tighten. Over time this creates what is known as a protracted or rounded shoulders. When the shoulders round forward, the spine follows and rather than sitting in an extended position (as it should do) it curls into a flexed position. This causes the vertebra to sit very close together at the front which can affect the disks but also create a very tight and stiff upper back and often leads to headaches. You can try to massage this, but the relief will only be temporary as the cause of the problem, the rounded shoulders, has not been rectified.
A quick way to rectify this is to stretch out your chest muscles, and strengthen your upper back muscles. To strengthen your upper back use a couple of tins to give you a small weight, and try the exercise in the picture, or look up the exercise “reverse fly”. This is a great exercise for targeting the upper back muscles. By giving these muscles a workout, you give them enough strength to hold your upper back in an upright position. However, if your chest muscles are very tight, they will overpower the back muscles, so stretch the chest out , or get a chest massage to release these muscles, allowing the back muscles to do their job.
#5 Try a vertical mouse
If you spend all of your day in front of a computer, this places your shoulder and arm in a rounded position, over time, your arm will strengthen in this position and in turn it causes the whole upper back to round, as we explain in point 3. A great way to limit this, is to purchase a vertical mouse . This keeps your wrist and shoulder in an externally rotated position which strengthens the shoulder in and external position, rather than an internal position which the body prefers. This stops your chest becoming so tight and causing back pain.
So what if all this doesn’t work? Well the body is a complicated thing and there is no one fix for any issue. If these simple fixes don’t work for you, it is time to get a proper bio-mechanical assessment and that is exactly what we do here at The Reinge Clinic. We look at your whole body, assess your muscles to test for weaknesses and tightness and then provide a personalised solution for you. We use hands on massage techniques to loosen the specific muscles that are causing the problem and we use our exercise science knowledge to strengthen the specific muscles you need. This allows us to rebalance and realign your posture and therefore remove the root cause of your back problems. This means the problem is unlikely to occur again.
The Reinge Clinic is a Physiotherapy, Sports Therapy, Sports Science clinic based in Kenilworth, Warwickshire and Portishead, Bristol. Take a look at our facebook page for our pain, injury and exercise advice posts and learn more about us on our website.