Gardens have been a sanctuary for many as we’ve been confined to our homes for the past few months. With more time to devote to green fingered persuits and the return of warm weather drawing us outdoors, lots of us are spending our lockdown digging, planting and cultivating our outdoor spaces.
For some though, this increased demand on our bodies comes at a price. Gardening is a common cause of back pain so if you find yourself seizing up after a spell of cultivating your beds or tending to your lawn, read on for how to enjoy caring for your garden without the accompanying misery.
Bending forward increases the pressure on your discs. Sit on a stool or use a kneeling mat for weeding/planting and use a table or shelf to plant pots whilst standing to keep your spine in a neutral, upright position.
If you have lots of digging, raking or hoeing to do, think about getting hold of longer-handled tools so you don’t have to hunch over as you work.
In an unnatural position or when placed under load, our backs can ‘seize up’ after a period of time as musles fatigue and discs are placed under stress. Avoid this by taking a break and moving around.
Doing this every 15-20 mins has been proven to prevent changes in the discs. Grab a cuppa, do a few stretches or walk a couple of laps around the garden to loosen off.
Despite our best efforts to apply a good lifting technique, our backs often take the brunt of lifting heavy bags of compost, or moving weighty pots around the garden.
Invest in some plant caddies to put under your pots so you can wheel them around instead of having to lift them to move them, or use a sack truck or wheelbarrow to transport heavier items.
Our backs are weakened when we reach forward, particularly if we twist at the same time. Plant close to borders or paths or use raised beds so you don’t have to reach far.
If you are experiencing back pain when gardening and would like to speak to a specialist for some complimentary advice on how to ease the pain, please email [email protected] with your name, number, best time to call and brief outline of your problem, one of our team of specialists will be in touch.
More people are working from home than ever, with numbers of home workers almost doubling in the last 10 years.
Whilst many enjoy the freedom and flexibility of not being confined to an office, for some, the lack of a traditional set up workstation can have a negative impact on their back health, instead choosing to work from a place which isn’t optimal for good posture.
If your job involves working from home, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of back pain.
Sit up at a table instead of on the sofa to maintain good posture and avoid back pain casued by slouching.
If you sit with your laptop on your knees, it’s likely that you’ll end up in a position where your spine is rounded, shoulders hunched forward and neck protruding, all of which can cause muscle imbalances, tension and stiffness.
Or if you have an area high enough, put your laptop on a surface and work standing up.
Without the routine of the office, it’s easy to become engrossed and not take as many breaks as you normally would.
Sitting down puts more pressure on our discs than standing, and by standing and moving regularly, you reduce the risk of changes in your discs.
Advice is to stand up and move around every 20-30 mins.
Position the top of your screen at eye level, whether you’re seated or standing. Use books to raise it up to the right height if necessary. If standing, keep your weight even on both legs and don’t lock out your knees.
Have a 90 degree angle at your hips and knees, with your feet on the floor, sitting on a cushion if you need to and put books under your feet if the chair is too high for you to do so.
Keep to your regular working hours to avoid longer days sat down.
If you feel self-conscious about stretching in an office full of colleagues, take advantage of the privacy to stretch regularly thoughout your day.
Concentrate on muscles which are shortened when you sit down such as your hamstrings, hip flexors, and chest. Also strecth your glutes to reduce any tension and pinching on your sciatic nerve.
If you’re a straight before-work, lunctime or straight after-work exerciser, try to keep to that routine. It’s all too easy to let it slide when you’re not in your usual routine and as a result, you can lose strength and flexibility which are both important for posture and good back health.
If you are experiencing back pain when you’re working from home and would like to speak to a specialist about improving your posture and getting back to working without pain, please complete the form below to register for a complimentary consultation. Once submitted, we’ll be in touch to book your session.
“One study found that 29% of subjects believed that stress was the cause of their back pain.”
Though it may not seem obvious at first, there is a clear link between stress and pain. For some people, stress manifests itself mentally and for others, there is a physical reaction, often affecting your neck, shoulders or back. One study found that 29% of subjects believed that stress was the cause of their back pain.
Adrenaline is the hormone responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response we experience during times of stress. Essentially, it’s getting the body ready to either stay and fight the source of danger or flee.
Our heart rate increases, our breathing becomes more rapid, and muscles become tense in case they need to take rapid action.
When our breathing rate increases and we take shorter, more shallow breaths which come from the upper chest and shoulders, rather than the diagphragm.
This changes the muscles we use to control our breathing and can cause tension and pain in areas which aren’t used to this increased demand. You may experience pain in your mid-back and find your shoulders hunching as a result.
Tension and spasms in the muscles around the spine can cause not only pain, but a decrease in function and the inability to move as you should. This then can cause lead to as muscle imbalances and – long term – loss of strength.
There are also the knock-on effects of a change in lifestyle, depending on the cause of your stress. For example, if you are experiencing stress at work, you may be putting in more hours, or spending longer at your desk.
You may have to sacrifice exercise if your work demands more of your time. You may also be spending longer on your phone which can lead to changes in posture which affect the neck and shoulder muscles.
If you are experiencing back pain because of stress and would like to speak to a specialist about getting stronger and reducing tension, please complete the form below to register for a complimentary consultation. Once submitted, we’ll be in touch to book your session.
The scenario: your back has seized up. Probably doing something not too impressive.
When you experience back pain – especially if it’s the first time – it’s really hard to know who to turn to for support and to how understand what help you actually need.
Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Sports Therapists, Physiotherapists – there are a number of back care professionals you can turn to, but how do you choose?
Chiropractors specialise in assessing, diagnosing and treating problems with the spine.
They use hands-on techniques to manually manipulate joints (called adjustments) when they’re not moving properly to free them up which creates the ‘cracking’ or ‘popping’ noise which many people associate with chiropractic care.
Osteopaths take more of a ‘whole-body’ approach to care, looking to promote the bones, muscles, connective tissues and joints working harmoniously together to achieve wellbeing.
They use their hands to palpate areas of the body to diagnose tension or areas of weakness, and then apply techniques such as massage and stretching to treat pain.
Sports Therapists and physiotherapists specialise in musculoskeletal disorders and aim to maximise movement, reduce pain and improve quality of life.
Both types of practitioner use hands on treatment such as massage and stretching, as well as rehbailitation exercises and client education and the focus is very much based around returining the client to full function to carry out daily activities without pain. Sports therapists specialise in returning clients to exercise or sport, and physiotherapists have more of a medical background.
Many practitioners also work in conjunction with each other. For example an osteopath may refer to a physio or sports therapist for exercise rehabilitation, or a sports therapist may work with a chiropractor to help with the mobility of a client’s spine.
Deciding which type of practitioner to see usually comes down to personal choice. All are experts in back pain, but you should think about the type of injury you have, what kind of treatment you feel comfortable with and what your end goal is.
If your back is feeling sore and stiff and you would like to speak to a specialist sports therapist for an assessment and to discuss whether sports therapy is suitable, we would like to invite you to a complimentary 60-minute consultation. To register, click here, complete the form and we’ll be in touch to make your booking.
Without question, there is always a surge in the number of enquiries we receive in January from people suffering with a bad back following their Christmas break.
Coincidence? Not really, no. Thinking about what the festive period involves for many people, it’s little surprise that some people end up with more than gifts under the tree at Christmas as back pain theratens to bring you down in the new year.
Arguably one of the most common causes of back pain over the season. As much as we enjoy a TV-marathon, our bodies are designed to move. It’s what keeps our joints healthy, muscles working and circulation pumping.
There are a number of reasons why sitting around may be contributing to your back playing up:
The primary function of our core muscles is to keep us upright and stabilise us when we’re moving, so when we sit down, they switch off. Over time, this can cause them to weaken, meaning your spine has less support and is more vulnerable.
Furthermore, being in a seated position shortens your psoas muscles. Starting at your spine and attaching to your leg, they are largely responsible for flexing your leg at the hip. Any muscle which is in a shortened state for a long period, adaptively shortens itself and this can cause it to pull from where it attaches to the spine, negatively adjusting your posture and causing misbalances in your back muscles.
In addition to this, the positioning of your spine in a seated position increases the pressure on your intevertebral discs (the squishy cushions in between the bones in your spine) by up to 50%, more if your posture is poor.
This increase in pressure compresses the discs, reducing the cushioning and shock absorbing function in your spine, as well as causing more pressure on the wall of the disc which can leave you vulnerable to ‘slipped’ or bulging discs.
It’s no great shock that the most common new year’s resolution is to get ‘in shape’. Most of us have probably resolved to be leaner, stronger or fitter at some point as a new year dawns.
Given the information above about the likelihood of having a weakened core and tightened muscles though, going all out on a new regime with gusto at the start of the year could be quite damaging, especially if you start doing something you’ve never done before, challenging your already deconditioned body to do things it’s not used to.
Instead, build up gently. Ease yourself into it and make sure you incorporate flexibility and core work into your routine to address any weaknesses you may have.
Finally, listen to your body. Take care not to push yourself beyond your limits, or risk further damage. Ultimately, your back will thank you for being stronger and more active so look after it as you enjoy a more mobile 2020.
If your back is feeling sore and stiff after your Christmas break and you would like to speak to a specialist for an assessment and to discuss treatment options, we would like to invite you to a complimentary 60-minute consultation. To register, click here, complete the form and we’ll be in touch to make your booking.
When you have back pain – like REAL back pain, the can’t-get-up-can’t-put-my-socks-on kind of misery, wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to brag to your friends about the hercluean task you were undertaking at the time? “I jumped out of the window of a burning building!” “I fell out of a tree rescuing a little girl’s kitten!”
However, if you’ve exerienced your back ‘going’, I bet it was something way less impressive which made it go. “I reached across a desk!” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?
There’s no shame though, we’ve all been there (picking up Lego from the floor, anyone?).
Wave goodbye to your bragging rights, here are some of the more unremarkable events which have led people to our door…
Usually this is becuase your back is bending and twisting at the same time under load.
Avoid this by kneeling down instead of bending and activating your core as you pull out the washing.
More common than you’d think…
Again, when we pick things up from the floor, we’re often bending and twisting at the same time, or there may be a weakness already in your back and the quick movement can trigger a spasm as it tries to protect itself.
You may look more odd, but if you have a vulerable back, bend your knees to pick things up from the floor and activate your core.
Especially if you have a low car, you’ll be putting your body into quite an unnatural postition to lower yourself into your seat. As the weight transfers from your legs, your back may not be strong enough to support this position.
Overcome this by sitting down backwards onto your seat and then swivel your legs in, engaging your core as you do so.
Another twisting under load movement. Just like above, if your back and core aren’t strong enough to support your spine, your back will resist.
Every time you open a door, engage your core muscles so you’re twisting using your whole core, not just your back.
As ridulous as it sounds, you really can do your back in by doing nothing.
Your back wants to maintain it’s natural ‘s’ shape and sometimes your sleeping position can compromise this. If you sleep on your front with your pillows to high, for example, your back will be over-extended. Or you may have a very soft mattress which puts your spine in a different position.
Aim for a position which keeps your back in alignment. Avoid too many pillows and use a mattress which allows you to maintain the natural curve in your spine.
If your back has ‘gone’ and you would like to speak to a specialist for an assessment and to discuss treatment options, we would like to invite you to a complimentary 60-minute consultation. To register, click here, complete the form and we’ll be in touch to make your booking.
When it comes to your back, the body can be very adept at masking problems. Take leg pain for example. If you have pain radiating down your legs, buttocks or feet, the natural conclusion is that you have a problem with your legs, right?
Not always so. And this can be a problem. Because you’ve been fooled into thinking the problem lies somewhere else, the principle reason for your pain gets missed and you can end up with enduring symptoms which can worsen if the root cause isn’t addressed.
Your sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, originating in the low back, passing through the buttocks, down the leg and finally ending in the foot. When irritated, it can cause pain, numbness or tingling at any point in it’s path.
So how does this relate to your back? The most common causes of Sciatica originate in the back, when the nerve roots are irritated. The main reason why this happens is a bulging or herniated disc in the low back.
The bones in your spine (your vertebrae) are separated by jelly-filled discs. Through injury, or degeneration, the soft centre of the disc can push out from the hard outer shell. When this happens, it can press on the nerve which in turn leads to referred pain elsewhere down the nerve.
Generally speaking, sciatica presents itself as pain that radiates from your lower back into the back or side of your legs, or numbness, tingling or weakness in your leg or foot. This pain may get worse when you move, sneeze or cough.
A back pain professional can diagnose sciatica and determine it’s cause by performing some simple physical tests. Other tests can be done if further investigation is needed, such as x-ray, MRI scanning or dye injections. Most people with sciatica can be treated without the need for further investigations though.
The good news is that most people will recover within a few weeks. During this period it’s important to focus on pain relief and keeping active. Where possible, carry on with your daily activities and avoid being sedentary for long periods as this increases pressure on your discs. Pain killers can also help you feel more comfortable during this period.
Treatment should also include exercises to strengthen the core and back. This will not only help support the spine and alleviate symptoms, but this increase in support will protect the back against further damage and prevent the pain reoccurring in the future.
Sports massage and stretching/flexibility work also helps by reducing inflammation and easing any tight muscles which may be constricting the nerve.
If you are experiencing pain in your legs which you may think is Sciatica and would like to speak to a specialist for an assessment and to discuss treatment options, we would like to invite you to a complimentary 60-minute consultation. To register, click here, complete the form and we’ll be in touch to make your booking.
Indeed, a toasty back-rest will alleviate your discomfort, but wouldn’t it be better to not have the unpleasantness of back pain in the first place? Of course, this would come with the added bonus of being able to sit in ANY seat without your back shouting it’s displeasure at you.
“people who regularly spend more than 4 hours a day at the wheel are at increased risk of developing back problems.”
30-60% of drivers cite back pain which is caused or made worse by driving and people who regularly spend more than 4 hours a day at the wheel are at increased risk of developing back problems.
Although our cars may not be entirely to blame – after all, our bodies are designed to move and holding them in any static position for a prolonged period will result in discomfort – there are a number of common reasons why drivers experience more back pain:
With your feet being used to control the pedals, they are unable to do their regular job of stabilising and supporting the upper body, as they would when you normally sit. As a result, the muscles of the low back and hips work overtime to try and provide this stabilisation.
Although many car seats aren’t designed for optimum posture, we often don’t help ourselves. Sitting too far away from the steering wheel so you have to round forwards to steer is a common problem, as is the wheel being too high or too low, causing tension in the shoulders.
Likewise, if you’re positioned too far from the pedals, you’ll find that you reach with the legs and with the stability of your back already compromised, your low back will fatigue quickly and cause you to slump.
Your Psoas muscle is one of the primary hip flexors. It stretches from the top of your thigh bone to your low back and when it is in a prolonged shortened state (as it is when you’re sitting down), it can tighten over time and pull on your low back.
If your accelerator foot rests on the pedal with your leg rotated outwards, this is a good indicator that your Psoas muscle is tight which may be contributing to your back pain.
If your knees are higher than your hips, this can cause over-tightening of the Psoas, as well as your thighs not being able to provide stability for your upper body.
Your body is exposed to different forces when you drive. Vibrations from the bumps in the road, forward, backward and side-to-side movements when you accelerate and decelarate all increase spinal loading in the low back which puts you at increased risk of injury as the spine tries to absorb these forces and vibrations.
One study revealed that long-term vibration exposure from driving was among the highest risk factors for neck, back and low-back problems.
Sitting on your wallet or phone in your back pocket puts pressure on the muscles in your buttocks and can cause sciatic or back pain.
Your sciatic nerve, which runs behind your hip joint, can get pinched between whatever is in your pocket and your hip, causing pain to radiate down your legs.
Having items in your back pocket can also cause your pelvis to tilt which in turn puts pressure on your back and can cause an imbalance in the muscles.
Preventing back pain when driving will take some adjustments. There is no one-size-fits-all solution so use trial and error to find what works for you.
As well as the above, it’s important to take regular breaks to get out of the car, move around and stretch. Your body wants to move, allow it to do so and you’ll be rewarded with a comfortable, pain-free journey.
If you are experiencing back pain when you drive and would like to speak to a specialist about getting stronger so you can enjoy more comfortable driving, please complete the form below to register for a complimentary consultation. Once submitted, we’ll be in touch to book your session.
I’ve long been an advocate of the ‘baby steps’ approach to health and fitness. Unless you are super-motivated and have cast-iron willpower, overhauling your diet or exercise regime will probably give you 2 weeks or so of smug, but I can almost guarantee that soon you’ll be right back where you started, possibly even a few steps behind, back on the ‘quit and start over’ train.
So, what to do – you want to improve your health, but where do you start? Try making smaller changes which don’t dramatically change your life to start off with. These 5 things will help you make the first steps. Bit by bit, you can implement tiny changes and before you know it you’ll be in the smug-zone for good, without feeling like you’ve sacrificed your life to get there.
Now, my eyebags tell me that sometimes caffeine is necessary, but if you are a steadfast coffee lover, try cutting down by a cup a day. Once you’ve cut down by one, and are used to it, try another one, then another (if you really do love your caffeine fix) until you reach a recommended level
Note that I don’t say ‘go to the gym’. The best type of exercise is an activity you enjoy. There’s loads you can do – use your lunch break for a brisk stroll, get on your bike and commute to work, try an at-home workout or go to a group fitness class.
We all know pre-packaged and processed foods aren’t the best in terms of delivering nutritional value, but if they feature heavily in your life, going cold-turkey might be one step too far. Try switching one item a day for starters, so a handful of nuts or piece of fruit instead of a packet of crisps or chocolate, water instead of squash or lean meat/fish instead of ham or cheese in your sandwich.
I’m talking the likes of rice, pasta and bread. Do this for long enough and you’ll probably start to prefer the more wholesome option.
If you don’t already do so, having a protein-rich breakfast will keep you fuller longer and stabilise your blood sugars. Tricky if you have breakfast on the go, but you can give overnight oats a shot (also nice cold, or baked as biscuits), or if you can have breakfast at home, go for super-quick scrambled or boiled eggs.