Spinal Health

Spinal Health

With Jess Clarey

Fact – over 80% of people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Many of you reading this can probably relate to that. The extent of injury can vary and there’s no taking away that at times it can be serious while at other times we just need to show the back some more love and care.

There’s a lot of misbeliefs about the spine and relevant structures when it comes to back pain  and this can lead to a fear about the injury and how to manage it. It is important to recognise that although useful at times, findings of scans such as MRIs do not always relate to the current injury or symptoms- see the common findings in asymptomatic (no pain or symptoms) people infographics based on a recent study. What you can see from the study is that disc degeneration and bulges are very common in all populations in the absence of any pain. Whilst scans can be very useful, it is important that we don’t rely solely on these to diagnose injuries but instead look at the whole picture which includes you as a person, how you feel, how you move and how the injury is affecting you. The spine is a strong and robust structure, but it is also central to all of our movements, a contributing factor as to why it is so often injured.  

So what happens when you injure your back?

A number of different structures can contribute to back pain, this includes discs, joints, nerves and surrounding muscles.  Often there is a combination of factors resulting in the pain and functional restriction. Your body works to protect itself but sometimes this can be out of proportion to the injury.

What should you do?

Obviously seeking medical advice from either your doctor or physiotherapist can help.  Most of the time, the best thing you can do for your back is to keep it moving in ways that do not increase your pain.  Physiotherapists can help to diagnose what might be contributing to your injury and what treatment may help. This includes massage or other manual therapy techniques to help regain good movement and calm the irritated area as well as providing you with exercises you can perform to help yourself recover from your injury.

How can you help to prevent back pain or the recurrence of a previous back injury?

One of the easiest ways is staying regularly active.  Walking is one of the best activities you can do! It helps to lubricate the joints and get the muscles working and blood flowing.  Simple things that get neglected with our more stationary lives being glued to a desk. Sustained postures can contribute to discomfort even if you sit with ‘perfect’ posture.  If you’re a desk bound person structure times where you will get up and be away from the desk, keeping in mind ‘your best posture if your next posture’.

Like with many injuries keeping strong will help to prevent injury.  That does not mean you have to become a gym junkie, and if you are one you might still require some different strengthening exercises to target your deeper stabilising muscles.  Keeping your glutes strong, as well as your deeper core and postural muscles is important. Being generally strong through the legs and back will also assist in keeping injuries away.  If you are having trouble or would like some extra guidance speak to your physio.

3 exercises to get you started:

General strength work is a good additive to walking.  This is by no means exhaustive and sometimes exercises need to be altered to suit your individual needs.  Do not perform these exercises before consulting your physio if you have any injury concerns. Discontinue if you feel any discomfort or pain and consult your physio.

Sit-stand/squat:

Repetitive sitting down and standing up gives some good activation work for your glutes, quads and back.  It is a good starting point if you aren’t a gym goer or haven’t performed squats recently. Progression is to complete the exercise by just  touching the chair but not sitting down, then standing back up.

This would then progress in to a squat, making sure you push your hips back and you drive through your heels to stand up.

Glute Bridge:

This is a good exercise to target the glutes (buttocks) particularly if you’re one to be sitting most of the day.  Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Push through your heels to lift your bottom into the air until your hips are straight.  Pause for a second then lower back to the ground. Important to note you should feel your bum and top of your thigh working not your back.

Leg Lowers:

Often used in pilates, leg lowers target the lower abdominals and help to maintain a good core for spinal support.  Take note of the position of your low back when you lie on your back with your knees bent and feet supported. Throughout this exercise you want to maintain this alignment, not arch your back.  From this position, slowly bring one leg at a time into ‘table top’ (90° at the hip and 90° at the knee). Keep one leg still whilst you lower the opposite leg towards the ground then return to the table top position and repeat the same on the other leg.  Easier if the knee stays bent, harder the move you straighten your leg as you lower. It is important you move well with the above exercises.  If you would like help or guidance on where to start, our physios are able to assess and teach you exercises to suit your needs, and our Exercise Physiologists are excellent at developing tailored strength programs.

Call our reception on (07) 3891 2000 or book online here.

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