Fitness and Back Pain
Back pain. It sucks. Unfortunately, it’s also extremely common nowadays because we’re spending more and more time sitting. Eight to ten hours a day in front of a computer at work, hours of winter binges on Netflix, not to mention a wholly unproductive amount of time spent on our phones and on social media. Not only are we spending more time sitting, our posture is seriously suffering because of that extra time on our backsides.
So, back pain is common, but it's not something we have to accept as inevitable or normal.
Four out of five adults – that's 80% of adults! – in Canada will experience at least one episode of back pain during their lives, with most occurrences happening between the ages of 30 and 50. Back pain can originate along any point in the spine and symptoms can range from pain, muscle tension, and stiffness to weakness in the legs or feet, and tingling. The most common spot for pain is the lower back because it bears the most weight and physical stress (Stats Canada, 2006).
OPEX Regina works with clients every day that experience some degree of back pain.
The first step to helping someone reduce or mitigate back pain is to get as much information about the pain they are experiencing as possible. This means asking questions about what everyday activities cause pain or make the pain worse, as well as observing how the client moves in order to alleviate or work around their pain. Things we look at include how the client opens a door, how they take off or put on their shoes and, most importantly, how they’re walking (their gait). It’s usually in observing these daily movement patterns that we can begin to understand some of the causes of back pain.
It turns out that most of us are performing these menial tasks in ways that cause, rather than prevent, pain.
How we can help:
At any given time, we have clients who experience lower back pain. Jane* is one of those clients.
Jane is a local health professional that spends much of her day sitting, as many people do. In order to target Jane's lower back pain, the majority of her assessment was focused on how she sits throughout the day, with a special focus on how this position was affecting her lower back and contributed to her chronic pain. With minor adjustments to her sitting posture and the way she performs daily activities, like getting out of a chair, we were able to remove dysfunctional movement patterns and reduce the pain it was causing her.
Posture when seated in essential to mitigating back pain.
The next step to relieving her back pain was a formal movement analysis which revealed strength imbalances and poor muscle recruitment patterns. In Jane’s case, despite being very strong and capable, a weak core and not being able to effectively use her glutes (butt) were causing her lower back issues. This type of imbalance is extremely common in most of the population.
After obtaining the information necessary to build a program for Jane through the informal and formal movement screens, a strength program was developed.
Outline of Jane's Program:
Remove all movements that cause back pain.
Implement exercises that address poor movement patterns and strengthen muscle imbalances.
Restrict movements and corrective exercise that trigger pain.
For Jane, this meant starting slowly with very little movement in some cases. Over several weeks she progressed through increased range of motion, complex movement patters, and increased time under tension to build strength. Within two months, Jane's pain went from an eight out of ten to a one out of ten and greatly improved her quality of life.
Jane - My OPEX Regina Experience
"I had been experiencing back pain for a little over two years when I came to OPEX Regina. I had struggled to find ways to help myself, including spending loads of money seeing a variety of healthcare practitioners. Some things helped for a while, but I had experienced a flare a few months prior that was devastating. I have always been active, but finding things that didn’t cause more pain became more and more difficult. My quality of life was decreasing rapidly; I could not do things with my children as I once had. Often it was just about getting through the day.
Within one month of coming to OPEX three times a week, my pain decreased from 8 to 4, and within the second month, it further decreased to 1. Luke, my onsite OPEX Regina coach, encouraged me to move in ways that did not trigger the pain, and to strengthen my core and glutes. These areas were VERY weak, despite my strength in other areas. Encouragement, patience and vision were offered to me in a profound way. I could just work at the place that I was at, rather than pushing to prove myself. My workouts challenge me and I might be a little sore afterward, but I feel like the foundation is being set properly for more challenging movements in the future, should I choose to go there. But more importantly, I have more days where I have energy to get through the day, and perhaps even enjoy some time with my children and friends. As anyone with chronic pain knows, this is priceless.
-Jane, OPEX Regina Onsite Client
Statistics Canada, (2006, June 6). Back Pain. Retrieved from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-619-m/2006003/4053542-eng.htm