It’s shocking but it’s true… about 80 percent of adults experience back pain at some point in their lives.
Now of course there are many different causes and reasons as to why someone will experience pain in their back and we suggest that if you are in severe pain or experiencing prolonged periods of pain, then you should consult a medical practitioner. However, there are some very simple things that you can do to help prevent the pain in the first place.
Because a few simple lifestyle modifications and some easy exercises may be all you need!
Ok so before we go into these easy fixes we’ll give you a quick overview of the most common issues and causes of back pain – without getting too “sciency” about it (because this blog would go on forever if we did!) – the most common cause is lack of mobility.
The back, or spine, is extremely important for many reasons, but mainly its job is to protect one of the most important structures in our body – the spinal cord – and our back muscles will do pretty much anything to protect it! It's because of this we can get a tightness or soreness in the back.
Now, imagine your pelvic bone and visualise it as a bucket of water. If your pelvis is tilted forward, then water spills out the front of your bucket and if your pelvis is tilted back, then water spills out the back of your bucket.
A tilted pelvic bone puts pressure on the spine, which in turn can lead to pain. If the muscles surrounding your pelvis are properly aligned your pelvis remains in what is called a “neutral” alignment – no water being spilled and hopefully no back pain. Still with us?
The muscles controlling your pelvis include four groups: your abdominal muscles, which attach to the upper front of the bucket, your low back muscles, which attach to the upper back of the bucket, your hip flexors, which attach to the lower front of the bucket, and your hamstrings, which attach to the lower back of the bucket.
Now, think about what happens if you hamstrings are tight. Go ahead, visualise that bucket. Hamstrings attach to the lower back of the bucket and if they tighten up, water spills out the back of your bucket because your pelvis is tilted backwards. How about tight hip flexors? (the muscles towards the front of the hip – they help you move, or flex your leg and knee up towards your body) That’s right, water out the front of the bucket. This in combination with weak butt muscles (Glutes) causes a whole host of back related problems.
In today’s world many people can spend a lot of time sitting down – at desks, driving, on sofas, and this alone tightens the hip flexors (because they are shortened all day while in the sitting position) resulting in the pelvis tipping forward, known as an anterior tilt (water pouring out the front of the bucket) – then the butt sticks out and the lower back arches, meaning compounded discs and pain in the lower back! Possibly the most common back complaint.
Not as common, is the posterior tilt (water pouring out back of bucket) and those at risk for posterior pelvic tilt are mainly gym-goers who over-focus on their glutes, hamstrings and abdominal muscles. But this too can cause pain in back, including the lower back, and running down the legs with sciatic pain!
Okay, so how do we fix these issues and maintain a “full bucket” – or a neutral pelvis?
Some simple exercises either at home or in the gym with the help of a fitness professional can really make a huge difference! We have 64 gyms across the UK, all staffed by professional fitness staff who can show you some exercises to help strengthen and stretch the above muscles.
Find your nearest centre and get help with leveling your pelvis.
We suggest starting by stretching your hip flexors, and strengthening your hamstrings, core and glutes and you’ll maintain a full bucket – a neutral pelvic alignment and less stress on your lower back.
But what about the cause? The most common yet frequently ignored issues you come across when dealing with people with back pain are as follows:
Sitting down all day
So without further ado here are some “easy fixes” to help alleviate some of the causes of back pain:
1. Step away from the screen
It shouldn’t be a surprise that slouching in front of your television or spending long hours in front of a computer screen is bad for your back. Just think about the seated position, those hip flexors are shortened after all that’s what the muscles are there for – to bend you at the hip! So where possible make an effort to limit the time that you spend sitting down in front of a screen.
At the very least try and get up at least once an hour for a stroll and stretch, but even better if you can try and stand up for a bit to work. If you have a laptop move to a high table or ledge – if not, but you need to make some calls, do them standing up.
2. Think about the little things
Most people tend to forget that the little things we do every day can play a fairly large part in contributing to back pain. Wearing the wrong footwear. Yes sorry ladies!
Walking around in heels all day is not going to help with back pain! In the same way carrying too much weight in your handbag is also not helping, (especially if you don’t change the side you carry your bag on regularly). we’ll keep referring to the bucket. If you’re on your toes all day (wearing heels) it’s unlikely that your bucket is nice and level as heels tip your weight forward.
3. Get moving
When you’re in pain exercise may be the last thing you want to do, but regular physical activity is essential to good back health. Most fitness professionals will be able to give you some low-impact exercises to help boost your fitness level, and provide strength and flexibility to your back.
Think of that bucket, and the little things you do every day, in conjunction with an exercise programme and by making some relatively “easy fixes” you could eliminate that unwanted pain.
4. Gentle static stretching
It’s very easy to do a few stretches each night at home – and just before bed is actually the best time to do them if you can. Think about what we’ve just said – the fact that a lot of back pain is caused by being static and in one position…. and what do you do all night? Lie down!
If you already have a pelvic tilt, when you relax your muscles to sleep they will pull your pelvis even more into that tilt! Quite often we can wreck our body’s just by the way we sleep! So by stretching before bed and stretching the muscles you can help correct the tilt and set yourself up for less damage in the night.
Here are a few exercises to try:
Hip Flexor Stretch
(to try and lengthen those muscles at the bottom front of the bucket which are tipping it forward)
Kneel so that both knees are at 90 degrees. Push forward so that you feel a stretch deep in the front hip of the back leg.
(to try work those glures and hamstrings - helping to pull the pelvis back down from the back)
Lie on your back with knees bent. Tilt the pelvis to neutral so that there is no gap between the floor and your back. Squeez the glutes and push down with your abs before raising upir butt off the ground. The idea is to use your glutes to push your butt up, and not feel it in th elower back.
4 Point Kneeling Variations (Superman)
(to try and stabilise and strengthen the core)
Kneel on all fours, raise one foot/leg and the opposite arem - the most important yhing with this move is to keep back flat and not raise the hip of the leg your are raising, higher than the other hip.
Glute Bridge Swiss Ball Roll
(similar to the previous glute bridge but with emphasis on the hamstrings)
Lie in your back as if you are going to perform a glute bridge, but rest yor feet on a Swiss ball. Gently roll your feet away from your butt and back again.
Some simple exercises in the gym with the help of a fitness professional can really make a huge difference! We have 64 gyms across the UK.