Back pain causes 5 million people to consult their doctor every year and will cause pain to one in 5 of us at some point in our lives.
In the majority of cases the problem comes on slowly, starting as back ache, reduced movement and can also include shooting pains into the legs. It can be caused by many different factors including arthritis, trauma, slipped discs or sciatica - leg pain due to trapped nerves. More recently it has been linked to people having increasingly sedentary lives (especially as a lot of people now have their workstations set-up poorly at home) rather than the traditional industry related injuries such as burns and cuts. Increasingly doctors are left with limited options (such as medications and physiotherapy for which there is often a long waiting list with which to help patients) so the person is left trying different therapists and therapies for a cure.
Research seems to show that surgery is not a quick fix for back pain and is only necessary in less than 4% of cases. It indicates that prevention is indeed better than cure and that exercise and good posture are very important, particularly in conjunction with a therapy such as Osteopathy.
Weak stomach and back muscles mixed with a sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for bad backs. Exercise strengthens the core muscles of the abdomen and spine and eases the tension in the back. Any exercise is good, although it is best to avoid high-impact sport if you have just had an episode of back pain – perhaps stick to walking, cycling and cross-training for example. Try and aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise 3 times per week where you are getting your heart pumping a bit harder than when you are at rest (you are working too hard if you are not able to talk while you are exercising). One session per week of pilates or yoga (classes are available online – contact me for more information) is also recommended as an ongoing means to avoiding back pain. Both are very effective, although it always important to proceed through each exercise slowly if you are a beginner and only attend classes with teachers who are moving around the room and watching that you are doing the exercises correctly. One to one classes are the ideal way to get personalised instruction and introduce you to exercises at your pace.
Start the day with some gentle knee hugs and stretches and then make a habit of taking regular breaks from your computer and, if you are very sedentary – every 45 minutes or so, perhaps doing some of the exercises below to keep yourself pain-free.