Back pain, a modern day epidemic
Globally back pain causes more disability than any other condition, yet we accept this as a natural part of ageing.
The struggle to identify and manage back pain
One of the great challenges with tackling back pain is that in the majority of cases there are no obvious mechanical or structural reasons for it – meaning that the cause of the (sometimes excruciating) pain doesn’t show up on scans, or during a doctor’s examination. This can make it extremely difficult to identify what is causing the pain and provide an accurate intervention or treatment.
Our clinical experience at Viavi has resulted in us working alongside a wide variety of professionals within the back-pain arena including orthopaedic surgeons, sports physicians, neurologists, neurosurgeons, chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, personal trainers and massage therapists. The length of this list alone shows the difficulty in knowing how best to treat a condition from the variety of solutions available.
But there are common features that often apply to people with back pain
With our increased understanding of the condition, some keys features have been identified that often apply to people suffering from back pain.
By identifying these commonalities, we can recognise relevant areas to consider when managing existing back problems or working to prevent them occurring in future.
The common threads that back pain often has a correlation with:
- Poor posture in both the standing and sitting positions.
- Imbalanced movements and muscle balances – of which the most common seem to be a stiff thoracic/upper spine.
- Weakness or wasting in the muscles of the bum (Gluteus Maximus and Medius).
So how can we help manage back pain
For those seeking a solution, we always recommend consulting with an expert to exclude any obvious or significant reason first – whether that’s mechanical or some other. Following this and, in the absence of a clear diagnosis, it is almost universally advisable to focus on three important interventions. These are:
- Increased levels of movement (aiming for 10,000 steps per day) which, at a basic level, means that you will not be static the whole day, but importantly strengthens the muscles in the feet, legs, hips and torso, nourishes the spinal structures and naturally improves posture
- Adjusting your sitting and work station posture and head position ensuring correct alignment. In good sitting alignment, the feet are supported, the hips and knees are level (or the hips are slightly above the knees), the spine is vertical or slightly reclined, and the small arch in the low back is maintained. If sitting at a computer: keep the shoulders down and away from the ears in a relaxed position; ensure wrists are neutral (not bent up or down); the elbows are kept by the side and bent to about 90 degrees; and the head is facing (but not protruding) forward.
- Specific stretches and exercises to target and strengthen the upper thigh and glute/ bum muscles. Click here to see our recommended exercises and do them 2-3 times a week.
This thinking plays a key part in the development of the exercise sequence delivered at the Viavi:be Health Gym, where there is a unique combination of gluteal strengthening exercises and specific stretch and mobilisation programs for people with postural abnormalities, specifically a stiff thoracic spine.