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Managing Low Back Pain

Almost everyone suffers from low back pain sometime in their life.

The good news is that it usually will go away within a few days or weeks with some basic self help and care. In many cases you can manage your back pain at home.

However, you should be aware of when it’s NOT a good idea to manage your pain by yourself. If you do suffer from significant back pain and the following it is wise to seek professional help.

  • Pain radiates down the back of your leg and calf
  • Numbness/altered sensation in leg, foot, groin, rectal area
  • Lost bladder/bowel function
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • History of cancer
  • History of osteoporosis
  • History of taking steroid medication
  • Relentless pain that cannot be relieved with changing posture

If you do not suffer from any of the above symptoms or history here are a few tips to help ease your lower back pain.

Exercise

The key to exercising is to help keep the back mobile and the muscles supple. This can be achieved by gentle cardiovascular exercise e.g. a brisk walk 20 minutes every day and gentle stretches.  If anything hurts during or after exercising stop and seek professional help.

Lose your Breath!

The point of cardiovascular exercise is to get out of breath (so check with your GP first if you are fit enough for this). Being out of breath will mean that your ribs are having to expand wider, which in turn will be increasing the movements on the ribs and spine. This will have a knock on effect of improving the suppleness of your back.

Stretch it Out!

The aim is to open up the lower back and keep important back and leg muscles supple. Often back pain occurs when these muscles are shortened ie prolonged postures e.g. regular & long hours at a PC . Do these exercises daily. Keep the muscles lengthened and healthy.

The following are some simple stretches you can do at home:

Knee Hugs

ALying on your back, (A) slowly bring one leg to your chest and hold for 5 seconds. Slowly lower leg down and bring other leg to chest, hold for 5 seconds. If you feel confident with this stretch you can bring (B) both legs towards the chest, hold for 5 seconds, gently let go of legs and then repeat, holding for further 5 seconds. This can be repeated 10 times, twice a day.

BCARE: To gain benefit from these stretches, they should be done slowly and smoothly. At no point do you need to bounce the legs.

Buttock Stretches

This stretch is done sitting on a chair, making sure your feet are flat on the floor.

CBring one leg up as if to cross your leg. Place your ankle bone just above your knee as shown in the picture below. Make sure foot on the ground is facing forward. Slowly lean upper body forward. You will feel a stretch in the buttock area on the side were the leg is crossed. Hold for 5 seconds. To come off stretch lean upper body back. This can be repeated 5 times on each leg.

CARE: Stretch slowly and smoothly. No jerking/bouncing movements. Stretch should be felt in the buttock area. If this gives pain into other areas of the body stop the stretch.

Hip Flexor Stretch

DPlace a pillow under one knee, with the other knee at 90 degrees. Making sure upper body is straight, slowly lean forward from the hips. A gentle stretch will be felt in the front of the thigh. Hold for 5 seconds. To come off stretch move upper body and hips back. This can be repeated on each leg 5 times.

CARE: Take care not to arch upper body back whilst performing this stretch.

Juliette Taylor is a Qualified Osteopath at Living Centre Clinic, and happy to offer advice or answer any specific questions

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