Is it getting harder to get a good nights' sleep?
Or maybe spending quality time with family is getting difficult?
Back Pain. Most people will experience back pain at some point in their life. What do you do when it comes calling?
See a Chiro?
Go for Massage?
... or just some painkillers?
Doctors are quick to tell their patients that there's nothing to be done about back pain.
"Just take some pain killers, drink plenty of water, and live with it..."
That advice just isn't good enough!
There are a multitude of short-term fixes for back pain. Unfortunately that's all they are: short-term fixes. If you want life-long relief, you need to look further than the symptoms and find the underlying source of the pain.
This is where Australian-Certified APPI Clinical Pilates comes in. Drawing from a long scientific background, It is a methodology that keeps you mobile and happy long into your life.
Clinical Pilates is a set of exercises that focus on posture, balance, core stability, strength, and flexibility. It is suitable for Men and Women, and Pilates students range for 5 years old to 105 years old!
So what are some of the most common causes of back pain? How do we really treat it?
#1 - Desk Jobs
It should come as no surprise that the human body did not evolve to be very good at sitting in front a computer. Our DNA is built to run, jump, crawl, swim, and so much more. Unfortunately, when we sit at a desk all day, we start to weaken our underlying muscles structures.
Our transversus abdominus (a deep hidden abdominal group - not your six pack!)
Multifidus (spine supporters)
Gluteals (we've all heard of the big "Gluteus Maximus", but there are also the medius and minimus)
When these muscles weaken, our spine starts to pull out of alignment. This is exacerbated when our big primary muscles start to overcompensate. What you end up with is focus sore spots - usually along the spine at either the lower or the upper portion.
When we fix these underlying weaknesses, (as well as train better sitting posture), the underlying cause can be removed.
#2 - Lack of Physical Activity & Weight
Heavily linked to #1 above, a lack of physical activity or an excess amount of weight can start the slow slope towards weakening your supporting muscles.
If you want to truly fix back pain for the long term, a few sessions a week of light exercise is a great way to get back on track.
If one or two of these sessions is Clinical Pilates exercises, then you'll be back on track even sooner. If the cause is just general lack of physical activity, then after a few sessions, you might be well suited to try Group Fitness Pilates Instead.
#3 - Old Accidents and Injuries
If you've sustained injuries in the past, it's quite possible that you never truly recovered. We're not just talking about back injuries here: a knee injury, or even hand injury could equally start the body favoring one side, and start the slow spiral to muscle imbalance and weakness.
My Husband was a classic case of #3, having received several back injuries over his life: Everything looked normal to the untrained eye, but up-close he had a slight limp that caused spinal movement to come out of alignment, and he always favored a side for lifting heavy objects. The result: back pain every morning from lying in bed, and a reliance on daily paracetamol.
These cases are much more tricky to assess, as the signs are often much more subtle than someone who is obviously weakened or has poor posture. A properly trained physiotherapist has a number of tests that allow for assessment, and from there, it is a process of re-balancing muscle groups and removing tension on overactive muscles.
In time, most back pain clients in this category can receive significant relief and reduce their need for painkillers.
#4 - Poor Flexibility
Are you having trouble tying your shoes? Is picking up something from the floor a task to be dreaded? How about sitting on the floor with your legs straight?
A common cause of back pain can actually be found in the muscles just below - the Gluteals and Hamstrings (aka the 'bum muscles'). If these muscles are particularly tight, your body can search for the extra flex somewhere else - in your lower back. As a result, instead of your Hamstrings and Gluteals elongating to allow for proper movement, your lower spine curves and goes under significant stress.
In time, this compensation becomes dependence, and the hamstrings no longer have the ability to do their original job without the lower back stepping in. This is particularly common among people who lift heavy weights and avoid flexibility classes. We call these people 'Vikings', and they are represented in our logo by the Gorilla.
Relief can often be found through a mix of:
Micro-fascial releases (deep tissue massage that focuses on breaking down the muscle's outer sack to improve flexibility and mobility).
Dynamic Pilates Stretching
Strengthening of the supporting muscles (the small ones that gym weights do not address).
#5 - Post-Natal Injury
Another very common cause of back pain (but only for women) is from post-natal stress of injury. Delivering a baby does significant damage to a woman's body, including the separating of their abdominal muscles, groin and leg strains, and 9 months of muscle-relaxing hormones.
The result is that your back may often weaken significantly after delivering a baby, and does not always fully recover on its own (this is especially true for women who have diastasis - abdominal separation). Special care needs to be taken in these cases, as the wrong workout can exacerbate the problems.
Clinical Pilates has a special set of exercises for dealing with these particular issues, and target the 'deep muscles' that sit below the large primary movers (such as the 'six pack'). Most patients find Clinical Pilates to be particularly successful in the long term.
#6 - All of the Above!
You are unique, and your circumstances are most likely a combination of the above, and maybe the myriad of other possibilities that we don't have the space to write about.
As Australian-trained Physiotherapists and Clinical Pilates Specialists, we are your trusted professional for assessing, planning, and achieving your personal goals. Please: don't just read about it, come in and see us in Bangsar.
Natalie Tan - Body in Common
Bachelor of Physiotherapy - University of Melbourne
APPI-Certified Pilates Instructor - Matwork
APPI-Certified Pilates Instructor - Machine