MOVEMENT is often the best medicine when it comes to back pain.
(i will prefix this by saying that if you have suffered a sports injury or suffer from chronic pain, it is definitely advisable to see your GP and get a referral on to a specialist for a scan/further investigations as to the cause of the pain in addition)
That being said, most people currently work a desk job and will end up sitting for upwards of 12-14hrs a day (more in some cases counting driving time and when you get home)
When we are sitting, our core muscles relax and more strain (3x in fact) is placed upon the spine… specifically the lower (lumbar) area.
Over time, combined with the fact that you are probably sitting at a computer all day typing away…can result in muscle tightness through the shoulders, neck, chest, hip flexors and hamstrings often putting further strain through the spine as well as putting more strain through the intevertebral disks, increasing the chance of disk deterioration and injury.
No wonder then that so many people suffer from lower back and neck issues, both muscular and structural (lower back pain is one of the leading causes of absenteeism from work in the UK)
If the issue is muscular, this is easier to resolve as more time spent working on flexibility and strengthening the muscles of the back and core can help massively with this, by improving posture when sitting and decreasing the tightness in the areas mentioned above.
If the issue is structural i.e. (disk related), this can cause more of an issue. in this situation mobility work around the area of pain is key. Spinal disks comprise an inner nucleus (with high water content) and an outer annulus of ligament. Due to disks not having a blood supply, and can only attaining the ‘nutrients’ they need in order to recover through fluid transfer in and out of the disk itself and from the vertebral end plates, when injured it is important to facilitate as much transfer as possible in order to give the best possible rate of recovery(1) . This will happen naturally as as night when lying, and minimal weight is through the disks, the water content will increase. This will result in a higher pressure within the disk upon standing in the early morning (often people with disk problems suffer greater pain in the morning as a result of this extra pressure).(2)
Throughout the day, the pressure from standing or sitting (remember more weight through the spine sitting) will cause fluid to be forced out of the disks and the pressure will decrease. This often results in decreased pain as if prolapsed or herniated, this decrease in pressure will likely mean that the prolapse will not push on the nerves of the spinal cord as much. (often in herniation of the disk pain is as a result of chemical inflammation rather than direct pressure however and this may require further intervention from a specialist post scan)
As a result of this pain, often the muscles of the lower back also tighten as a protective response in order to prevent further injury – this however can also lead to more pain (as i have found) as it forces you into an un-natural standing position.
THIS IS WHERE MOVEMENT COMES IN.
Personally i have found the 4-point drills to be fantastic for improving range of motion through the lumbar spine as it is very easy to alter the range of motion according to the pain free range in which you can work. (videos available on this page and website)
i would advise performing these for 5-10 minutes at least twice a day, and you should find that after this, you can move better, and stand more easily.
In addition to this, improving mobility around the hips often helps as this area often tightens up as well to support the pelvis and lower back. I have found that stretching the hamstrings, gluten and hip flexors has often afforded a decrease in pain and increased ability to move around comfortably.
Finally, don’t lie down or sit still if you can avoid it, lying especially will as discussed earlier only serve to increase the disk pressure on standing, so when you do, the pain is likely to be greater, and may last longer as there will have been minimal fluid transfer in and out of the disks. sitting/lying still, is likely to also cause the muscles to tighten, further contributing to an inability to move easily and comfortably.
If you would like any more information or want to know how i can help, feel free to get in touch or sign up to receive regular informative e-mails.