Guest post by Caitlin Reid
Do you find your back feeling tender, sensitive and achy after a day at work, during the night or after sports? You’re definitely not the only one.
Did you know Low Back Pain is the most common musculoskeletal health problem in the Western World? Here’s the best new though: It’s preventable, and easily treated. All you need is commitment and you can say ‘good riddance’ to your back pain for good!
Almost 80% of people have Low Back Pain in Australia, and it’s the second most common reason people head to the doctor’s office. Unfortunately though, the most common treatment most doctors prescribe is medication, anything from Ibuprofen all the way up to Valium. The worst part about this treatment method is it’s a bandaid fix; your pain may be minimised in the short term, but it won’t last. Taking strong pain medication can also trigger the link between anxiety and chronic pain, a link most doctors ignore. Before you go under the surgeon’s knife, there’s a few things you should know:
Low back pain is easily treated
Most Low Back Pain is preventable and treatable through core strengthening and education. The Low Back Pain we’ll focus on is the kind that niggles in your lower spine, taunting you with a dull ache that develops in the afternoon after a long day at the office, and often lingers long into the night.
How does core strength help low back pain?
Poor core strength is one kick back from our increasingly sedentary lifestyles. But it’s not inevitable, you can stop it!
Imagine your pelvis is a boat, and your spine is the mast. If the boat is rocking around, how do you expect the mast to stay still and strong?
Luckily, your TA or Transversus Abdominus can help. It’s a muscle that wraps around your lower torso, and around the junction of your pelvis and lower back. If this muscle is strong, the pelvis is held stable, meaning your spine has a stable base to work from. Strengthening the TA is a vital part of saying goodbye to your back pain, permanently.
How do you get a strong core?
Core exercises can be found on Youtube, or if you need an extra push for motivation head to your nearest Pilates class or studio. Skeptics think Pilates is easy, but trust me, it’s really tough! Some of the world’s best sporting icons use this workout method as a way to strengthen the small stabilising muscles that don’t get worked with traditional forms of exercise. Follow the All Blacks Rugby Team or Serena Williams’ lead and try Pilates which creates a lean, toned figure but also helps treat and prevent your Low Back Pain.
Remember though, core exercises aren’t ab exercises. Your abs are the muscles that form a six pack, your Rectus Abdominus. Your deep abdominals are your core, and learning to activate and work them out properly is best learned from a Pilates or spinal health professional. Then you can take your new found knowledge and do your workout at home, perfect for chilly winter days you can’t brave the walk to the gym.
1. The Plank
This well-known exercise is one of the best whole body core exercises you can do! It tones up the TA plus the rectus abdominus (6 pack) your latissimus dorsi (lats) and your shoulder stabilisers.
You can do a plank across two unjoined surfaces using your hands like in this photo, or try it on a mat on your elbow. Count how long you can hold it for and try and improve. When you start, try and do 3 x 10 second holds.
Tip: Don’t let your lower back sag. Tuck your tailbone and try to make a straight line from your head to your heels. You can do it!
2. Scissor legs
Lying on your back with your lower spine in neutral (not sway and not flat against the mat) engage your deep abs, feel them tighten across your lower pelvis and straighten one leg into the air as the other one straightens parallel to the ground. Without letting your heels touch the ground, swap between each leg, not letting your lower back move.
Tip: To gently improve your flexibility, add a very gentle pull on the leg that’s up in the air. Make sure you only do this when your muscles are warm though, no one wants to pull a hammy!
3. Extended teaser
This one is tricky, and relies on your deep abs for stability. Try the teaser once your lower back pain has subsided and you’ve developed some core strength.
Lying on the ground, arms stretched out above your head, and legs straight, breathe in. With the breath out, curl your shoulder off the ground, stretch your arms toward your feet and at the same time, let your feet reach toward your hands. If you can, grab onto your ankles and hold for two deep breaths. When you release, gently curl down the way you came up!
Tip: To start practicing teaser, instead of reaching to grab your ankles, keep your arms parallel to the ground and hold.
Don’t let Low Back Pain dictate your life
As a Physiotherapist, I’ve seen too many people let their Low Back Pain dictate what they can and can’t do; from playing with their children to getting a good night’s sleep. Medication can only do so much, and acts as a bandaid fix for an underlying problem that keeps growing. Make a change by learning about core activation, and you’ll see a change in the sciatic pain that runs down your leg, and you’ll be back to your favourite activities in no time. All it takes is a bit of commitment, but given the choice between some core workouts and a surgeon’s knife, I know what I’d choose.
Caitlin is a Physiotherapist, Pilates consultant, and founder of Aprive Wellness; a digital wellness brand blending the worlds of augmented reality, tech and health and fitness. Say hi to her anytime at www.aprivewellness.com