What I hope to achieve in the article is to give you a few of the tips that I give out daily to my patients at The Perrymount Clinic. Some tips may help you prevent any re-occurrence of back pain you have had previously and others may be able to help you reduce the frequency that you get pain. Give them all a try and see which works well for you.
Firstly let’s look at water consumption. Apart from the whole body needing adequate hydration to function properly the spinal disc (intervertebral disc) specifically need water to stay “plump”. It is well known that we are taller in the morning and we shorten through the day as our spinal discs are gradually squashed by gravity acting on us as we stand throughout the day. The reason we are taller in the morning is that over night the discs have an automatic function of cleverly dragging fluid back into themselves. It is when this space narrows that problems occur like arthritis, as the joints are closer together, or nerve entrapments (sciatica) as the decreased space causes the nerve to be pinched. So by drinking adequate water you will be making it available for your discs to use, keeping maximum distance between the vertebrae.
Most people consider exercise to benefit their cardiovascular health, but your joints and spine will love it too. Exercise will help on many levels, improving circulation, shifting inflammation, releasing “feel good” chemicals, but I want to look at two points, and Bootcamp does these amazingly well (I’m a big fan!). Firstly exercise will mobilise you spine, increasing the movement between the vertebrae and improving your flexibility. Most patients need this to balance work life with exercise as most people have sedentary jobs in front of a PC or on the phone, which basically causes stiffening and tightness through the musculo-skeletal system.
Secondly, exercise will strengthen our “core” muscles, or tummy. Think of your abdomen as the front of your back, and it therefore needs to be strong and functioning correctly to support your spine, particularly the low back. Again the Bootcamp team incorporate core strength into their circuit routines.
This is my number one point as it applies to everyone! You must make sure you have good posture, particularly when doing what you do most often through the day, so if it is standing then stand well, sitting at the PC, sit well, driving all day, sit well in your car.
The spine basically has 3 curves to it and your weight should be evenly distributed through them to give minimal strain on the ligaments and muscles. Compensations occur if the posture changes in one curve, adding strain to that curve and the others, creating opportunity for injuries. Take for example slouching over a PC, your head and neck are thrown forward and to compensate the low back curve flattens and this predisposes to disc injuries. You can experiment and try this yourself. You must basically check your posture from head to low back and make sure they are all in alignment, not just the part of your spine that hurts. You probably need a spinal assessment by an osteopath to fully examine this.
This is a condensed version of a longer e-book written by Christian Bates on self help for back pain available as a free download from www.midsussexbackcare.com