How to avoid back pain during lockdown
As the UK lockdown continues many of us are facing difficult times. Offices and businesses are closed and across the country employees are working from home to keep in line with the government guidelines. As well as continuing to work from home many parents are also tasked with providing home schooling. This is a stressful time and things are only going to get worse before they get better. The last thing you want at this time is to develop back pain so read on to find out how you can avoid it and what to do if you do get it.
The first thing to say is don’t panic. Up to 80% of UK adults develop back pain at some point in their life. Me included!! (you can read an earlier blog about my back pain) Most of the time its nothing more than a soft tissue injury and should get better over 4-6 weeks.
1- The cervical spine – the neck and upper back and composed of the 7 vertebrae closest to the skull. It supports the weight and movement of the head and protects the nerves exiting the brain.
2- The thoracic spine – the middle back, made up of the 12 vertebrae in between the cervical and lumbar spine.
3- The lumbar spine – the lower back, composed of 5 vertebrae and provides support for the majority of the body’s weight.
4- The sacrum – the base of the spine that is composed of 5 vertebrae fused as one solid unit. The sacrum attaches to the ilium of the pelvis forming the sacroiliac joints.
5- The coccyx – the tailbone located below the sacrum composed of 4 fused vertebrae.
Between each vertebra is a fluid filled disc called an intervertebral disc. There are many joints and ligaments within the back, working together to provide strength and stability. Many muscles attach to the spine to allow for movement and support. Any one of these soft tissues can become injured and cause pain. You may develop acute pain from a strain or sprain or it may develop gradually over time which is more likely to be a load issue. Sometimes the disc between the vertebra can be injured and as the area swells it can cause compression of the neural tissue as it leaves the spine and you may develop pain down the back of your leg, commonly known as sciatica. There are many causes of back pain but most will heal of their own accord over time. Imaging is often unreliable in diagnosing the cause of back pain and most GPs won’t refer on for this.
The most common areas of the spine that are injured are the cervical spine (the neck) and the lumbar spine (the lower back). We are going to focus on lower back pain.
How to avoid COVID 19 back ache
1- make sure you take plenty of breaks and move around. This helps prevent the joints becoming stiff
2- try to set yourself up at a good work station. Avoid sitting with a laptop on your lap for long periods in bent up positions
3- you can use a rolled up towel as a lumbar support instead of spending money on a fancy one.
3- get active. Now isnt the time to start beasting yourself with the h0me workouts. Little and often is good. Pick something that suits your level of fitness and work to how you feel that day. Aim to do something every day. I currently do a waterbottle workout at home every weekday at 11 am on FB live so lease feel free to join me.
4- Take some time at the end of the day to try and destress. There is a link between stress and lower back pain and also poor sleep and ongoing pain.
If you do start to develop back pain or have a sudden onset of back pain you don’t need to see a GP. It will get better itself over time. The key things to do are
1- take regular pain medication. If you aren’t sure what to take then the pharmacist is the best person to talk to. Over the counter NSAIDS (ibuprofen) and pain killers (paracetemol) can be taken together but need to be taken regularly for 3-7 days.
2- rest when you can. This doesn’t mean lie about and dont do anything. Your body is great at healing itself and with plenty of sleep and rest the soft tissue can begin to repair. You don’t want to overload the injured soft tissue again
3- keep active. Try to keep up with gentle exercise as your body allows. You may find a heat pack helps just to loosen off any stiffness in the area.
4- try these exercises. Keeping the lumbar spine moving helps move the synovial fluid around the joints which in turn aids healing. You can download the pdf of exercises and save to your docs. The NHS also has good advice on their page
If you do have ongoing back pain for more than 6 weeks, that continues to get worse and gives you pain at night. If you start to experience neural symptoms down both legs and have problems with going to the toilet that is when you should seek medical advice. Otherwise just give it time and look after yourself
If you would like any more advice on managing back pain then please get in touch for a free 10 min consultation. Please don’t panic though. There are so many small joint in your back that a sprain around one can lead to pain. Think of it like an ankle sprain. You can see an ankle sprain, generally you know what you’ve done and it causes pain and swelling. This is exactly the same in your back only you can’t see it. It will get better and it doesn’t mean you have a bad back. Stay active, keep healthy and look after yourslef in this very stressful time