MAY FOCUS – BACK PAIN

Osteopaths treat mechanical back pain. That is problems that derive from the joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. In the spine we can often help out with disc injuries, and its common for nerves to be ‘trapped’ or irritated at the spine. This can cause pain in the area the nerve travels. Often this could be down a limb. Symptoms can also include tingling, pins and needles or numbness.  So we can help with these complaints too.

You can’t as yet replace your spine! So try your best to look after the one you have. It obviously encases important structures, and it is central to our mobility. Those of you that have suffered will understand that all too clearly.

Generally, focus on keeping your spine as mobile and as strong as possible. There are many simple exercises you could do daily to help. Pick a few, vary them to keep a bit of interest, and try and do them regularly. They don’t take long to do.

To work on your spine’s mobility and strength a little harder. Look up a Yoga, Pilates, Tai-chi, Body Balance or Stretching class? After a while, when you feel more competent, you could take the exercises from these and practice them outside the class?

Posture is very important too. If you adopt an awkward position regularly, then it will be no surprise that some areas may get tight and shortened, or stretched and weakened. Look for balance in your body as much as you possibly can. Think about balance between the front and back, and left and right of your body. Some basic, easy things to think about are:

  • Stand/sit up straight, keep your head up (eyes on the horizon) as much as is practically possible.
  • If you’re sitting, try not to slump. Think about adding support to the small of your back if your chair doesn’t already have this. 
  • If you’re sitting. Get up and move around regularly. Perhaps every 45 minutes where possible.
  • When you’re sitting, do you cross your legs/twist them behind you/sit on a foot? Try and get out of these habits and sit with your feet flat on the floor.
  • When standing, try and have equal balance between both feet. So between left and right, and between toes and heels on each foot.
  • Sitting or standing. Visualise a cord pulling you up through the top of your head and elongating your spine. Also think about pulling your shoulder blades down your back (using the muscles below the shoulder blades). This will bring your shoulders down and backwards.
If you follow this link. It will take you to the Homepage of my website. Click on the area of the spine you may like to work on (from the list of conditions treated by Osteopaths), and take a look at the exercises. 

If you are currently experiencing a problem, then check with an Osteopath, other Physical Therapist, or Medical Practitioner to check the exercise is appropriate for you. If you’re stiff, expect to experience tightness/resistance. Generally though, if it hurts, don’t do it.

Here are some other options, not featured in the above link.
Roll-downs

Pilates fans will recognise this. It can be performed free-standing, but if you’re new to it try it against a wall. The idea being, it will give you some feedback with regard to the feeling of ‘peeling’ your spine off the wall one vertebra at a time.
To work on strength too. Try and engage your core muscles as you perform the exercise. (Think pull up your pelvic floor, as if you’re trying to stop yourself having a wee. Then draw your navel back to your spine. This can take practice!) With these muscles engaged protecting your spine. Allow your chin to relax forwards, then your upper back and shoulders, followed by your lower back. As mentioned, think about peeling your spine away from the wall one vertebra at a time. Then return to standing, replacing your vertebra one at a time against the wall. 
Repeat up to 5 times with care.

Standing Side-Bending 
Standing, allow your ear to drop to the shoulder of one side, and your arm to slide down the thigh of the same side. Return to normal, and repeat on the other side. Repeat 5 times to each side.

To gain a further stretch to the ribs and lower back region. Raise one arm up to lie against your ear. You could still add additional stretch by using the opposite arm to gently stretch through that arm, and also take a deep breath into your ribcage. Whatever level, try 2 times to each side.