Katie Knapton, founder of PhysioFast Online, reveals her tips & tricks for easing back pain
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The cause of back pain
Many of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives, especially in the lumbar region – that’s the lower part of your back from just above your waist down to your pelvis.
Sometimes back strain happens when you’ve overexerted yourself, maybe from doing something new. Other times it can stem from long periods of inactivity, perhaps sitting in one position for too long. This is something we’ve seen more and more throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, as people have been working from home and don’t need to get up to go to a meeting or visit a colleague’s desk. Another common cause of back pain can be from repetitive strain, often in the work environment, such as regularly lifting heavy objects.
It’s important to know that pain isn’t always relative to the extent of the injury or tissue damage. Sometimes our bodies perceive pain as threatening damage when actually there’s no damage there at all. Put simply, the body can get a little hot-wired, like a faulty car alarm going off for no real reason. It’s also worth understanding that heightened emotions, worry, stress and poor sleep can make pain feel worse.
What can I do?
It’s totally normal for the discomfort to last for a while. If you’d sprained your ankle, you wouldn’t expect it to magically recover straightaway, and your back is no different. If you’re in pain, you may benefit from some over-the-counter medication or you might find some rubs helpful. The use of ice or heat can sometimes help, too. You can ask a Boots pharmacist if you're not sure which treatments might be right for you.
But the best thing to do when you’re experiencing back pain? Get moving and do simple exercises! Below are five movements that might help.
Remember – if an exercise feels too painful then ease off.
Standing up nice and straight, place your hands in the small of your back and gently arch backwards.
Standing side flexion
Standing up straight, bend to the side by running your hand down the outside of your leg. Keep the movement slow and fluid. When you’re ready, return to the centre and repeat on the opposite site. This is a good mobility exercise for the lower and upper back
Lying comfortably on your bed or floor, bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the ground. Next, slowly move your knees to one side creating a gentle stretch through your lower back. Only go as far as feels comfortable – you don’t need to get your knees to the floor. When you’re ready, return to the centre then repeat on the opposite side. This is an excellent lower back mobility exercise.
Lying flat on your back on your bed or floor, bend your knees towards your chest. Hold this position and feel a gentle stretch in your back. If you feel up to it, you can gently rock as is comfortable. If you suffer from groin pain, ease off and just hold your knees in a comfortable position.
Lying flat on your back, flatten your spine against the floor, trying to tighten your tummy muscles whilst doing it. Stay within a comfortable range and relax after each movement. This is a gentle movement with abdominal activation.
We often hold our breath when we’re in pain which actually increases tension. To avoid this, try to gently breathe out while you’re doing your exercises.
When to speak to a GP or physiotherapist
Sometimes there are specific causes for back pain, especially when there is leg pain, pins and needles or numbness. This can be caused by irritation or compression of the nerves. If you’re experiencing this, you should contact a GP or physiotherapist.
You should also contact your GP if:
• The pain doesn’t start to improve within a few weeks
• The pain stops you doing your day-to-day activities
• The pain is severe or gets worse over time
• You're worried about the pain or you’re struggling to cope
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