Hi everyone, today we’ll be discussing one of the more common afflictions we see in our patients: lower back pain. When you have any sort of back pain, your core stabilisers (the small muscles adjacent to your spine – that’s the multifidus muscle, the transverse abdominus muscle, and the pelvic floor) don’t function very well. Normally, these muscles activate involuntarily milliseconds prior to movements such as rising from a chair, walking, etc. These muscles have the job of keeping the spine stable while the moving muscles operate the arms and legs. It is this relationship – between the stabilising and moving muscles – that allows for the most efficient and effective movement patterns.
However, when the stabilising muscles become inhibited because of pain, things don’t sync up as well. The stabilising muscles activate post-movement, consequently not performing their allocated job. They waste – particularly when the pain is of a chronic nature – and instead of providing adequate spinal support, instead allow too much movement. Therefore, voluntarily activating the deep core stabilisers both before and after activity such as going up and down stairs, rolling out of bed, or walking, is vital to pain reduction as well as the restoration of normal movement patterns. This conscious engagement of the muscles, if done properly, can do wonders for lower back pain.
THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP: Practice Makes Perfect
Of course, these muscles are not normally ones which we have to control, which can make engaging them a bit tricky. Fortunately, there are a number of exercises that are achievable for all cases. While doing these, the aim is to maintain stability around the lumbopelvic region while retaining your ability to breathe:
– Engage your pelvic floor – pull up between your legs as though you are trying to stop urination midstream (but don’t squeeze your buttocks together).
– Mindfully draw your bellybutton in towards your spine to activate the transverse abdominus.
– Shoulders back, head up – walk tall like a model. Imagine that you have a wire running up through the centre of your spine, lifting the crown of your head towards the ceiling.
If you have lower back pain, try these tips prior to moving and see if they offer some relief. It is important to perform these exercises regularly throughout the day to wake up those dusty stabilising muscles!