Gena Wallis (Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist) here discusses some simple ideas to deal with back pain.
Back pain, sadly affects too many of us, 80% actually. Very often with good initial management, what potentially could end up being a long term problem, can be controlled with a good recovery made.
If your back “goes” it usually locks up and you become very restricted in your movement. This is because the muscles go into “spasm”. This is like an overprotect mode where the muscles contract to prevent you moving. In a way, it is a natural form of bracing. In the initial stages the main focus is reducing this spasm. Heat is often best. This is because there is about 4-6cm of muscle between the surface of the skin and the deep joint structures that have been affected in the injury. You would usually use ice on an acute injury but in this case the injury is so deep that the ice won’t reach. Heat relaxes the muscles on the surface and so help to relax the spasm. This in turn unlocks the joints, allowing you to move.
Good pain relief is highly recommended – talking to your GP or pharmacist is a good starting point. Less pain means the muscles don’t need to protect as much, so pain medications are another way of helping them to relax and release their locking action. You may need to rest totally in the first day or so, but as soon as you can, movement is king! The skill is to move lots of small, PAIN FREE amounts, not too much but often.
Some useful exercises include lying on your back and gently hugging your knees up to your chest and slowly rocking them side to side a tiny amount. If your back is too sore (or if you cant fully bend your hips and knees) then you can do the same exercise but with your knees bent and your feet on the bed, with your heels as close to your bottom as is possible. Another exercise is to lie on your back, again with your knees bent and your feet flat on the bed. Tilt your pelvis to flatten your back on the bed, slowly tilt the pelvis to create a small gap between your back and the bed. You can also do this standing with your back against a wall. Another wonderful thing we have easy access to in Queensland is the pool. Getting in the water and hanging suspended on a pool noodle or water belt in the deep water is also extremely soothing for the back.
In these initial stages physio aims to help massage out the tight muscles and get the locked joints moving. As you improve physio then starts to focus more on strengthening. Like any other joint, regaining strength helps to protect the joints long term – this means less chance of re-injury. Exercises need to be specific, for example, teaching you what your deep core is and how to get it working. We use ultrasound imaging at Physiologix so you can see the muscles and check that you are doing the exercises correctly. Progressing to harder exercises suck as a pilates based program is then a great way to go. Get in touch with our Physiologix staff to find out more. You can call us on (07)3511 1112 or email us from the "contact us" dropdown above.