Apex Clinic: Don’t let back pain get the better of you!

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Top tips to stop back pain keeping YOU back:

Did you know that back pain is the UK’s number one ailment?  As many as four out of five adults in the UK are affected by back pain and 2.5 million people suffer from it on a daily basis.

Back stats make uncomfortable reading for runners who are more vulnerable to it than many, due to the repetitive nature of the sport.  Thankfully, Apex Clinic has some great advice on how to prevent or reduce back pain and stop it from slowing you down.

The good news is, from years of treating spinal pain, we know that most back problems we treat will NOT stop you running if the correct treatment regime is implemented.

Mind your back: seek early treatment:

Understanding your back and the pain you are feeling may help prevent you from doing further damage without realising it.  Any stabbing, sharp, knife-like pain should be treated immediately, as this may be indicative of disc problems and will need professional help to prevent the disc tearing further, keeping you off running for a long time.  Although easier to ignore, it is advisable to seek treatment for dull aching pain as soon as possible, as this is often a sign of referred pain from the joints of the lower back.  Our advice is always to seek physio treatment as soon as possible.  Remember, you need to treat it to beat it, so never let it linger.

Apex Clinic’s top tips for reducing or avoiding back pain:

Avoid early morning hill running: Never do hill runs first thing in the morning.  This is when the lumbar discs are at their most vulnerable.  Similarly, you should avoid sit-ups and/or heavy weights first thing in the morning, do them later.  Take smaller strides when running up hill: This will reduce the amount of forward bend of your back and keep you up straighter, making you less prone to back injury.

Warm up correctly to avoid injury: Always begin your warm-up slowly and gently.  During warm-up, you should minimise rotations using knee rolling from side-to-side and back flexion, where the knees are hugged up to the chest when lying down.  Also, minimise touching your toes as a warm up exercise, as this can be very vulnerable for the lower back.

Back-friendly sit-ups: We advise against full sit-ups, especially first thing in the morning or if you have an existing back injury, as these cause increased pressure within the discs.  Instead, try mini sit-ups, where you are only lifting your head and shoulders from the ground and not your entire back.

Swap pavement pounding for softer surfaces: By excessively training on hard surfaces, you are not only placing great load on your back, but if the pavement is pitched, you are also running the risk of pounding mile-after-mile with your body at a tilt.   This causes a general imbalance often resulting in irritation or injury of the lower back.  Grass, bark and treadmill surfaces reduce the force of impact and will help reduce the risk of back injury.

If the shoes fit wear them! Flat feet and high arches are major culprits when it comes to back injury.  Always choose the correct shoe to fit your foot type.  If you are in doubt about your foot type, your physio or specialist running shop provider should be able to advise you on the shoe that will best fit your foot, and whether insoles would be beneficial.

Tired trainers can hurt your back: Always replace your runners before they go flat, and lose their arch support.  Although expert opinion varies on this, with most quoting a distance between 350-500 miles, we recommend you base your decision on when to change your shoes on your running frequency, body weight, and the surface on which you run.   Look and feel your trainers and they will tell you when they need changed!

Never fly and then run: We know this one sounds strange, but if you think about it, cramped leg-room, uncomfortable seating and high cabin pressure, are all bad news for your lumbar discs, especially when travelling long haul.  This is why you are far more likely to suffer a disc injury by dashing out for a run shortly after landing than if you leave it until the next day, when your discs are less vulnerable again.

If overweight, try to lose it:  It makes sense that if you are carrying extra weight, your spine will be loaded more when running.  At Apex Clinic, we have found that woman are more prone to back injury if they are 1 ½ stone or more over their recommended weight and men, if they are 2 stone or more over their recommended weight.

Avoid using the rowing machine: If you have any lower back pain, you should avoid using the rowing machine at all costs.  Rowing machines are extremely high risk for anyone with lower back pain or for those who are at high risk of developing low back pain, such as those with a manual occupation involving heavy lifting.

Why not let us clear your pain, by booking a consultation with one of our Apex Clinic specialist spine, nerve and sports injury physiotherapists?  We pride ourselves in getting you back to full speed.