Back pain is one of the most prevalent musculoskeletal conditions hampering the daily lives of Australians. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimate that up to 90% of Australians will suffer some form of lower back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain has a wide array of causes that involve a number of different structures; however, the treatment of most forms of back pain can be somewhat similar.
When an injury occurs we have an increase in mobility and a lack of stability in the injured area. The first focus of rehab is to stabilise and strengthen the injured area. Once we have improved strength and stabilised the injured area, we can begin to re-introduce some controlled movement through increased joint ranges.
Blow are some simple exercises that are intended as a guide for general back care and health. If you suffer chronic back pain, have any neural involvement or referral of pain, you should have an in-depth assessment with your doctor or one of our professional exercise physiologists to ensure these exercises are safe for you.
The bird-dog is an exercise popularised by Dr Stuart McGill, one of the world’s leading back pain specialist. It is one of the most popular rehabilitation exercises and has amazing benefits to spinal alignment and core stability when done correctly.
The focus of the bird-dog is to control spinal and pelvic alignment whilst moving opposite arm and leg. This exercise also works on disassociation, which is another factor of back pain. This is dissociating arm and leg movement from spinal movement - stabilising the joint.
A common mistake in this exercise is dropping the belly toward the floor. Ensure your spine is straight to protect the lower spine.
The second exercise is a side plank, which stresses the spine in a different direction to the bird-dog. The side plank places lateral stress on the spine which requires the internal and external obliques to fight this stress and maintain spinal alignment - again working on the focus of stabilising the joints.
Common mistakes to avoid include sagging or folding at the hips, which makes your body bent. Another common mistake is twisting the body, whereby the shoulders and supporting elbow are not in a vertical line. If you feel this exercise is challenging, or you are having trouble staying in alignment, we recommend you start with your knees bent instead.
The final exercise is a hip-hinge, which focuses on strengthening the hips whilst maintaining spinal alignment. The focus of this exercise is to load the spine in a safe position and strengthen the musculature responsible for maintaining spinal alignment through movement. This exercise mimics the everyday movement of bending forward to pick something up and is excellent for functional health.
A common mistake is to slouch the shoulders. To ensure your spine remains straight you could use a piece of dowel such as a broom handle. Align the dowel with your spine, gripping it with one hand up behind the neck and one hand at the lower-back area. If the stick is longer than the spine, do not let the remainder of the length go below the tailbone. The back of your head, the area between the shoulder blades and the tailbone should remain in contact with the dowel through the entire movement.
Back strengthening exercises and managing “spinal hygiene” is something every single person should be doing, pain or no pain. If you have more complex back pain, we recommend you speak to one of our Accredited Exercise Physiologists and make an appointment for an in-depth assessment and tailored therapy. Call us today on 07 5456 1599.