A Few Common Myths about Low Back Pain
This is adapted from an article by a wonderful physio friend of mine from back home in Australia, Emma Esslemont and this is my first article as the physiotherapist in London at the Angel Wellbeing Clinic. Sharing is Caring.
1. “I can't lift any objects”
Repetitive lifting can put undue stress on our lower back and predispose to injury. However this can be avoided if the correct lifting technique is used. Lifting should come from the legs - bend the knees and keep the back straight.
Use your quads and buttocks; they are after all two of the biggest muscles in our bodies!! If you have knees which sound like an old wooden door missing its oiling for years, then bend with the 'golfers bend' – video to come.
2. ” I always sit with good posture so I shouldn’t get back pain”
While having good posture is imperative, even a perfect ergonomic setup won’t reverse the detrimental effects that hours and hours of sitting can have on our spine. Sitting places stress through our discs which are the shock absorbers of the spine.
When sitting for extended periods, our hip flexors are in the shortened position thus pulling the lumbar spine into greater lordosis, and makes our deep abdominals – the CORE - lazy, particularly when you slouch. Are you slouching right now? I thought so…. See my posture tips for correct sitting and standing positions and imagery.
3. “I do 500 sit ups a day & 5 minutes of plank so my back should be nice and strong”
Unfortunately it takes a lot more than 500 sit ups a day to achieve a strong spine. And the plank will give even the STRONGEST of backs a bit of curry. Ideally you need a good core stability program. 'Core' is a completely overused and totally misunderstood term.
Our core muscles are the deepest layer of abdominals consisting of the transversus abdominis, lumbar multifidus, pelvic floor and diaphragm. These muscles help to provide a corset and give support to the discs and joints of our spine.
4. ” When I have back pain I should lie flat on my back in bed till it goes away”
Rest is essential in an acute episode of back pain – that is REALATIVE rest. This means rest from aggravating activity, not all activity. This does not, however, mean days on end lying flat on your back.
Exercise is the best thing for speeding up your recovery. You should consult your physiotherapist for appropriate exercises that will be safe for you in the acute phase and as your pain resides these exercises can be progressed and become a long term maintenance program for your back to prevent reoccurrence.
5. “Sleeping position doesn’t really impact our backs”
For all the tummy sleepers our there it’s time to ditch this terrible habit… The best way to sleep is on your side with a pillow between your knees (the lazy S). This position maintains the natural curves of your spine.
When you are pregnant this is the BEST way to sleep, so why not get into the habit now – there will be enough changes to contend with when you are pregnant, so why add another one when the time comes round! Make the change now. And for all those males out there pffting and saying this doesn't apply to you – it does.
6. “Other health factors don’t affect my chance of developing back pain”
Incorrect. There are several health factors that actually increase our chances of suffering from back pain.
• Smoking: the chemicals in cigarettes actually dehydrate our inter vertebral discs and speeds up the process of degeneration. Research indicates that smokers will take 6 months longer to fully recover from disc related back pain.
• Extra body weight: carrying extra kilos will place excessive undue load on the shock absorbers in our spine and also increase the load through the weight bearing joints causing them to wear out faster.
• Hydration: our inter vertebral discs are made up of around 70% water. The amount of water will depend on the amount of load applied through the disc ( this will differ at night – discs tend to rehydrate over night as we sleep) when a disc is dehydrated its mechanical properties are altered significantly and can no longer absorb stress as efficiently.
• Fatigue : when you are tired you are much less likely to be concentrating on your beautiful posture or core activation, and more likely thinking about your next coffee hit. When tired and fatigued you will definitely notice your points of vulnerability and for most of us, that is our lower backs, necks or shoulders. If you're really fortunate, you'll get the trifecta.
• Poor general health : it is a known fact that when you are sick or have been suffering with poor health you will have a much higher incidence of musculo-skeletal breakdown and this will nearly always be at the points of vulnerability which were mentioned just above.
Jo Knock BSc , MSc (Physiotherapy), MCSP
Clinical Pilates Practitioner
If you are looking for a physiotherapist in London because you have back pain and are concerned about your spine, or you just need some general guidance for rehabilitation exercises, please don't hesitate to contact me as your physitherapist in London at the Angel Wellbeing Clinic. If you want to make an appointment click below.