Statistics say back pain in the UK is one of the main reasons for missed work, low productivity and lack of exercise. The problem is, back pain is usually treated with pain killer and the advice to rest. If the cause of the problem is ignored, how do we expect it to ever go away?
Direct impact/injury to our back is an obvious explanation to the pain you may feel, however, most causes of back pain stem from other areas of our body. These areas often get overlooked meaning the root problem is never addressed
Pelvis Alignment and Muscular Imbalance
Any abnormal anterior (forward), posterior (backward) or side tilting can put added stress and strain through our muscles, ligaments and tendons. Pelvis tilts to the rear means your back will tend to be very flat. If tilted forwards, a sway back will be more prominent.
Forward head and neck – If your head moves forward and out of line from your shoulders, your neck must carry added weight. This postural problem can cause neck and upper back pain. It can also affect shoulder pain and lead to various other problems such as headaches or migraines.
Bottom out and chest forwards (forward tipped pelvis) – Tight hip flexors and weak hamstrings cause a tilt in the pelvis. This is usually seen in those who sit for a long period of time such as truck drivers and office workers. Sitting for this long will case weak glutes and core, as well as tight hip flexors.
The hip flexors help lift the thigh. When these get tight, they pull the pelvis forwards causing your chest to stick forward and your bum to push backwards. Hip flexors can also compensate for your core muscles if these are weak, increasing the risk of back pain.
- Abdominal, Hamstrings and Glutes
- Lumbar, Hip flexors and Quadriceps
Flat back, rounded shoulders – This is typically caused from slouching for too long which puts added strain on your neck and the muscles between your shoulder blades. Along with slouching, a common cause is due to a muscular imbalance, for example overworking your pectorals with little strengthening of your back muscles.
An imbalance in our muscles can affect our posture and lead to tightness and pain. Our muscles work in pairs. When one extends, the opposing muscle flexes. If one is weaker than the other, an imbalance will occur, making one set too tight and one set too loose.
Tips & Treatments
- Stretch regularly – your hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, back and chest muscles regularly
- Strengthen muscles equally (work in pairs, targeting the muscle and it’s opposing muscle). Strengthening the muscles equally means one side won’t have to compensate for the other which is the main reason for muscular imbalance.
- Develop a strong core – your core is used in almost every activity you do in your day to day life. Having a strong core can prevent back pain and allows for an upright posture.
- Practise correct technique when working muscles, lifting heavy things or standing for long periods of time
- Mobility and activation exercises- consistent body weight exercises, weight bearing exercises or activation techniques are great for keeping your body ticking over. Try 10 – 15 minutes each day.
- Regular muscle manipulation (massage or other forms of hands on treatments).
- Severe cases may need specialised exercises or physical therapy by a qualified physician.
Steps to Correct Imbalances
- Identify the cause – possible trigger points. For example, foot problems or poor choice of footwear, lack of muscular strength, poor flexibility, uneven leg length, uneven impact during exercise or day to day activities.
- Start resistance training – develop your strength, endurance and muscle flexibility.
- Seek professional services – Massage therapists, physiotherapist’s.