The low down on Back Health

Every year, for a week, we celebrate the hard working profession of Physiotherapy. In which we aim to educate all people of back pain and how physiotherapy can assist with decreasing and preventing it!

Back pain has been very common since the beginning of time. All people of all ages can experience back pain. It is not always classified as a specific disease, but rather a symptom of different processes. It can range from mild symptoms; to pain that can prevent us from doing our daily activity.

Let’s discuss a few common causes of back pain:

  • Ergonomics (poor posture): It is important to maintain the correct ergonomics during your daily activities. If you maintain a bad posture position for long periods of time, it can place strain on the spine, causing your muscles to stiffen up.
  • Aging: Due to old age, natural biological changes causes strain on our spines. An increase in the load on the spine decreases the mobility in the spine and the muscles start to pain and stiffen up.
  • Stress: Stress can cause behavioural changes. Toxins are release within the muscles because of these behavioural patterns, causing inflammation and pain. Overall muscle stiffness presents due to increase in tension within the body
  • Chronic illness: Due to these illnesses our body changes, affecting how we feel and look (posture). Your muscles and bones can also be affected by the chronic medication you taken.
  • Referred pain: Pain in other organs within the body can result in back pain. Eg. Appendicitis, bladder infection, pelvic infection, aneurysm and kidney disease.
  • Injury (mechanical/inflammatory): the most common reason for sudden intense pain 0of the back. Whether it is picking up a heavy object, sudden directional change, accidents or falling on your back. This resulting either in muscle spasms or your vertebral bodies becoming stiff.

As mentioned above, posture is one of the leading causes of back pain. In today’s hard working society, we either sit behind our computers for long hours or we lift and move heavy objects throughout the day.

Prevention is better than cure. That is why it is very important to make awareness of this condition to ensure people can lead a better quality of life

How can I prevent back pain?

  • Exercise: Daily physical activity can keep joints loose and improve muscles strength.
  • Keep moving: Avoid sitting for long periods. Make sure to stand up and move every 2 hours.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Some food can increase/lower inflammation within the body. Maintaining healthy food habits can benefit your overall health.
  • Reduce stress: Decreasing stressful situations and environment can lower the pressure on your body and mind.
  • How should I lift heavy objects?
    • Spread your feet as wide as your hips
    • Stand close to the object
    • Bend at your knees, keeping your back straight (not with your back)
    • Slowly lift, by using your muscles to straighten your knees (keep your back straight)
    • Keep the object close to your body
    • Do not twist your back, keep straight when walking
    • When placing the object down, bend at your knees and not your back
  • How should I sit at my desk?
    • Place your feet flat on the floor/footrest
    • Don’t cross your legs, at your knees, hips or ankles
    • Keep a small space between the seat and your knees
    • The knees should be lower or in the same height as your hips
    • Relax your shoulders
    • Keep your elbows in your side
    • Do not slump forward or to the side
    • Place your screen so you can look straight ahead (not down or up)
    • Place a pillow behind your lower back to assist with posture.

How should I sleep with back pain?

  1. Sleeping on your side, place a pillow between your legs (length of your knees to feet)
  2. Sleeping on your slide and pulling your legs up to your chest (foetus position)
  3. If you sleep on your stomach, place a pillow under your pelvic area.
  4. Sleeping on your back, place a pillow underneath your knees.
  5. Placing a heat pack/warm water bottle to the area can assist with pain relief and relaxation.

Back week also aims to aid in emotional support for people living with back pain. This includes hands on treatment from your local physiotherapist and becoming more responsible in strengthening and training of your own body. These basic back exercises will aid in your pain as well as being your first stepping stone to starting a good quality of life.

Exercises to assist with back pain: (each exercise done 10 times, with 30 sec rest and repeat again)

  • Pelvic tilts
  • Supine spine twist
  • Heel slides
  • Cat stretch
  • Back extensions

How to know if your back pain is serious?

Your typical back pain usually includes; a direct injury, musculoskeletal disorders (muscle related), arthritis or mild scoliosis.

But the following symptoms are important to look out for: sudden increase in pain/numbness, loss of your bladder function, severs stomach pain, fever, sudden loss in weight or an injury to your back (fall/hit). In this situation, please visit your doctor or the emergency room.

Fun facts:

  • Back pain is the most common reason why people visit the doctor.
  • Back pain is the second most common reason for people taking leave at work.
  • 90 % of people with back pain (even nerve root irritation), will have improvement of their symptoms after 2 months, with or without treatment,
  • Acute back pain: pain experience in the back less than month.
  • Chronic back pain: is pain within the back lasting longer than a month.

Elan Healthstyle presents you with the best of both worlds. We have doctors that can attend to your more serious back pains and if it is not too concerning can refer you to our Physiotherapist that can assist you with pain management and exercises. Vice versa is also possible, in which you can visit our Physiotherapist that can assist you, and if your pain presents more serious can directly refer you to our doctors.

– Idali Janse van Rensburg


Allison Blair

All stories by: Allison Blair