Updated: May 21
More often than not chronic back pain, as bad and debilitating as it can be, can effectively be treated. It can be worrying, even frightening to be immobilized by back pain. Here are pointers to help you understand and guide you what to do next, including a video with key exercises.
The spine supports every part of your body. It protects your Central Nervous System CNS. Your CNS is involved in your respiratory and circulation systems, your digestion and elimination, your immune and hormonal networks. In other words, your spines health is central to your wellbeing.
Deep muscle relaxation, by Somatic Pandiculation ( big word, but simple really. Think of the way a cat/ dog squeeze stretches when rising that will give you some idea) followed by rebalancing of muscle tone with exercise specific movement (Pilates, and Physiotherapy) can successfully restore ease and comfort to you
Here is a guide to helping your back.
Firstly is your pain chronic (long term) or acute (sudden onset)?
If your pain is recent lets take a look at whether this is a muscle sprain or a strain.
A strain is usually treated with ice, but applying ice to the back can often aggravate the back and nerves.
Should I apply ice to my back?
-Did it hit you suddenly during strong stretching or a moment of athletic intensity? Were you lifting something way too heavy and/or awkward? In other words, did you have an “oh, shit” moment? -Is there a spot in the muscle that’s extremely sensitive to poking? (It may even be little bit deformed — is there a bump or a depression?) -Is the skin flushed and hot? Does it look puffy?
If YES, to all three, ICE is your best option.
If applying ice do so every 2 hours. After 24 hours , heat or a warm bath can be applied to relax the muscles. If there is no improvement after 72 hours see your GP or go privately to a physiotherapist. In this current COVID-19 situation, check the red flags section below to see if you need urgent care.
Back Pain Care
Ibroprofen is excellent to reduce inflammation and Ibroprofen gel is even better as it is applied direct to the area. If the back pain isn't severe, Arnica gel is also a good alternative. Please remember that ibroprofen is a pain killer, so don't presume the injury has gone away if it feels better! Rest in the Constructive Rest Position as often as you can for 48 hours.
Avoid lifting or twisting for a week at least. If you are still pain after a week days consult a GP or Physiotherapist. ( I personally will contact my physiotherapist sooner rather than later eg within 3 days)
Please see our Red flags below and call 111 if any of these apply.
Constructive Rest Position CRP.
If your back pain is acute or chronic the following rest position is helpful.
Lie on your back (on the floor) with your feet up, knees at 90 degrees on a chair, with a book or low pillow under your head. A small rolled up towel under your lower arch of your back (or warm wheat bag if completed the ice cycle) Rest for at least 30 mins.
Alternatively use a large pillow or bolster under your knees
The following are rare but if you have back pain plus any of the following consult your GP or call 111.
-a fever (high temperature) -redness or swelling on your back -pain down your legs and below your knees -numbness or weakness in one or both legs or around your buttocks -loss of bladder or bowel control (incontinence) -constant pain, particularly at night -pain that is getting much worse and is spreading up your spine. chest pain.
There may be other, more serious underlying causes of your low back pain, which will need a GP advice and a specialist referral. They include:
-fracture, a crack or break in one of the bones in your back.
-a slipped disc - this is when a disc bulges so far out, it puts pressure on your spinal nerves.
-spinal stenosis - a condition in which the spaces in your spine narrow.
-spondylolisthesis - when one of your back bones slips forward and out of position.
-degenerative disc disease - when the discs in your spinal cord gradually become worn.
-osteoarthritis - a wear-and-tear disease that can particularly affect the joints of your spine.
-rheumatoid arthritis - an inflammatory condition in which your immune system causes inflammation of the lining of your joints and surrounding structures.
-osteoporosis - a condition where bones lose density causing them to become weak,brittle and more likely to break.
However more often than not chronic back pain, as bad and debilitating as it can be, can effectively be treated with deep muscle relaxation, (somatics and pandiculation), rebalancing of muscle tone for postural ease. Large muscle groups often contract to protect and area and begin by accidents, injuries, surgeries, repetitive tasks, prolonged bad (unbalanced) posture and on-going emotional stress.
Your back pain may have started due to
-standing, sitting or bending down for long periods with an unbalanced posture. -lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling loads that are too heavy, or going about these tasks in the wrong way. -having a trip or a fall
-sporting injury -being stressed or anxious -being overweight
-Digestion problems- inc IBS
-Inadequate muscle support of the trunk and spine
-lack of proper movement in the spine and hips due to inadequate stretching/exercise
-carrying a bag on one shoulder for extended periods. Remember back pain can start months after an original accident ( car, fall, sporting injury)
The resulting patterns of muscular contraction that develop result in such common conditions as chronic back pain, neck, shoulder and hip pain, limited mobility, joint pain, poor posture, shallow breathing, and uneven leg length. This chronic muscular tension creates sensory motor amnesia- SMA
Here are some simple and basic moves to ease and support your spine. A gentle somatic pandiculation followed by some basic Pilates exercises.
These exercises in this video are there for a guide line only and are at your own risk. *
The ENERGYBODi Sensation has classes in Embodi Somatic Yoga, Embodi Pilates, Embodi Dance and Embodi Aerial at www.ENERGYBODi.com in Rossendale, Lancashire. If you are out of the area there are many good Hanna Somatic classes worldwide. If you are looking for a Yoga class or Pilates class be sure to let them know specifically of your back pain, not all yoga/pilates teachers are trained specifically for this.
Hanna Somatics is a rapidly effective form of neuro-muscular (mind-body training) movement and re-education that goes directly to the root cause of most chronic muscular pain. All our teachers at ENERGYBODi are trained in Somatic movement.
I often see disbelief as there is a presumption that the pain must be something more serious, when often it can be helped with deep muscle relaxation and postural rebalancing. (Emotions can play a huge part and a whole other discussion-see blog on emotional spiral) Chronic pain is draining and affects all your life- when you learn how to help yourself you feel a weight lifted when your pain is diminished or gone and empowered to be able to self help. So learn skills in how to relax and know how to move your body into greater ease by joining a class for Pilates, Yoga, Somatics, Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique.
Seeing a physical therapist, Physiotherapist, Acupuncture, Massage/body worker is highly recommended and a regular movement class that works with alignment and integrated movement. At ENERGYBODi we have several physiotherapists/sports therapists who attend classes, including ENERGYBODi's owner, Heather who is is sports massage and osteo-manipulation body worker. Please ask us for contact details.
Never underestimate the importance of how you support your body with your nutrition and mental and emotional wellbeing. We are are here at ENERGYBODi to provide a space to nuture, unwind and express. Seeking help from counselling is also beneficial.
Maintain a healthy weight— additional pounds place excess strain on spinal vertebrae and discs. Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption.
Stay well-hydrated. The body is 70% water, and sufficient hydration contributes to inter-vertebral disc health and that of other back related structures and functions.
Get your vision checked. Poor vision can affect the way you carry yourself, which can contribute to back problems.
There are some vital vitamins and minerals that will directly help your muscular/skeletal/nervous systems. Getting a varied diet can be tricky sometimes, but also many minerals are missing from our food due to heavy use of the soil, which becomes depleted. It can take five years for an organic farmer to get the nutrients back into the soil for his crops.
There are actually about eighteen essential nutrients that contribute to bone health; Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin C, B6, B12, K2, Zinc, Potassium, iron. Magnesium is definitely one of the most essential. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant ( also good for your heart muscle!)
Magnesium is a powerful muscle relaxant!
This critical mineral is actually responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and is found in all of your tissues -- but mainly in your bones, muscles, and brain. You must have it for your cells to make energy, for many different chemical pumps to work, to stabilize membranes, and to help muscles relax. When was the last time you had a good dose of sea vegetables (seaweed), nuts, greens, and beans? Magnesium is very common to be deficient in. It is absolutely vital for relaxing and contracting the muscles. If you are someone who gets cramps this supplement is vital. However not just muscles but bones... Magnesium helps to fix calcium properly. It may blow some people's mind that the calcium supplements they're taking are not only useless, but are actually contributing to osteoporosis if they are not balanced with the right minerals!
Vitamin B12 is necessary for healthy bone marrow and for the body - and the spine - to grow and function normally. Vitamin B12 deficiency is an important risk factor in osteoporosis. When the level of the vitamin falls, the deficiency triggers the demineralization of the bone. Daily life gets harder for you to endure as you experience debilitating symptoms such as: muscle weakness, fatigue, tingling in your extremities, mental fogginess, memory problems, and general apathy. Vit B12 is used for cell regeneration and nerve tissue.Vitamin B12 can be found in meat products, such as liver, fish, red meat and poultry; dairy products, such as milk, eggs and cheese; and green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale and broccoli.
A Vitamin B complex and magnesium work in tandem to promote normal function of the nervous system and normal psychological function, contribute to energy yielding metabolism and reduce tiredness and fatigue.
Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is essential to building strong, dense bones when you're young and to keeping them strong and healthy as you age. Feeling tired and achy is a frequent wintertime complaint. According to Dr. Holick, many who see their doctor for such signs end up being misdiagnosed as having fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome when it is a vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin C is necessary for the development of collagen, which is an important part of the process that allows cells to be able to form into tissue. This is extremely important for healing problems caused by injured tendons, ligaments and vertebral discs, as well as for keeping bones and other tissues strong. Vitamin C can control inflammation, reduce back pain, repair and maintain the discs of the spine, and protect bones from losing calcium.
Your spine supports every part of your health as it protects your Central Nervous System. Your CNS is involved in every system of your body. Keep your spine strong, flexible, stable, mobile and agile... you are as young as your spine!
I do hope this article has helped if you are suffering from back pain. Don't give up or despair, I understand how draining it can be and how it affects your whole life. Remember it isn't about someone waving a magic wand and making it better, it is about becoming an expert in yourself, being your own teacher, your own healer. We do this with guidance and knowledge and help from others but ultimately we become our own expert.
At ENERGYBODi, the teachers share their knowledge as part of the journey for you to become your own experts.
Heather and team
*This advice and exercises are not intended to diagnose or treat any illness or treat any injury. It is for educational purposes only. If you choose to engage in any of these exercises presented by ENERGYBODi and related Teachers, you do so at your own risk. Please consult a physician before you start any NEW program. You agree not to hold Heather Parsons, Joanne Davidson, Jessica Goggins, Denise Robson, ENERGYBODi liable for any illness or injury. Not every exercise is safe for every person. Correct exercise execution of all exercises is imperative to prevent injury. Please consult your health care professional and GP if you have any questions about if an exercise is right for you.