Exercises and techniques to prevent back pain

Let’s talk about back pain. This is a very common affliction, as research has shown that up to 80% of people have lower back pain at some stage in their life! Bede and I see plenty of back injuries that begin with an “incident”, however most back injuries we see build up over a long period of time due to poor postural habits. A little bit more about these injuries is explained below, plus what can be done to PREVENT them.

Firstly, a bit of anatomy of three common back injuries…

1. What is a ‘bulged” or “slipped” disc? A disc is the shock-absorbing material that sits in between the vertebrae of your spine. We have many discs in our spine, but most commonly injured discs are the two at the very bottom of your lower back (L4/5 and L5/S1). The terms “bulged” and “slipped” refer to different degrees of injuries to these structures.

2. What is a facet joint sprain? We have a facet joint at every level on either side. The facet joint is like the ‘cog’ of the back which means that they each have to move in turn when a person sits, stands, bends forward or backwards. The facet joints are also labeled in relation to the vertebral level; for example, left L4/5 refers to the facet joint on the left side of the body. It is quite easy for your physiotherapist to determine which of these structures is causing your pain with a series of movement tests.

3. What is sciatica? Sciatica is a term which refers to the presence of pain in the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can be from various causes such as a bulged disc which presses onto the nerve, a sprained facet joint which ‘pinches’ the nerve, or tightness in surrounding muscles. The treatment for sciatica depends on the underlying cause, and so correct diagnosis is very important.
So, in order to prevent your back from regressing to one of these, here is what we recommend you do….

If you work at a desk, run through a quick check of your workstation. Ask yourself the following questions:

a. Is my seat high enough so that there’s a small slope down from my hips to knees?
b. Is my screen height correct so that it is in line with the tops of my eyebrows?
c. Is my lumbar support adequate so that I maintain a small curve in my lower back?
d. Am I sitting square into the seat with my hips back into the chair as far as they’ll go?

If you’ve answered yes to these questions you’re off to a good start! Secondly, what exercises can be done?

a. Stretch your back on the foam roller

b. Keep your abdominals strong. At Viva we, use a machine called a Real-Time Ultrasound to show you a real-time image of how your abdominals are working in order to maximise the help they give to your spine.

c. Walk! Whether it be to work, from the train station or for 10 minutes at lunch time, walking each day will go a very long way towards a healthy back.

We hope you have enjoyed this little snapshot of some of the typical back injuries we see. If you would like to discuss your specific injury or concern please contact us.