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Health, Spine

Why Does My Back Hurt… Again!

September 13, 2016 • By

You might often ask yourself, why does my back hurt? Or, why do I keep hurting my back?

Well, a huge 34% of who have episodes of low back pain will get it again and again. This causes a huge flow on effect with time off work, doctor and physio visits, as well as loss of quality of life during that time. If we can better understand why acute low back pain recurs then we can better manage it.

First of all, this first part of this blog is easy to explain – why do things hurt. Here is a short video from one of the best at explaining pain:

Things hurt due to a combination of our peripheral receptors signaling our brain that they have felt something and importantly how our brain interprets this signal. For more information on pain and the different types, check out this post.

So, with that covered, but we come back to the question of why does my back hurt; do we really know why acute low back pain recurs in over one-third of people?

There is most likely a number of factors and we don’t know them all, that’s for sure. But what we do know is that following an episode of low back pain, activity of your deep back muscles is decreased on the injured side – even once the pain is gone.

Multifidus why does my back hurtIt’s been shown that the multifidus muscle which runs down the side of your spine, supporting, moving and stabilising your vertebrae has different activation to that of a normal back. This shows that even with good management when you have low back pain – the muscles don’t always get back to your normal by themselves, possibly leaving you more prone to another episode of low back pain.(2)

The good thing to remember is that in 90% of cases of low back pain they are pain free and better within 6 weeks and that 85% are classed as non-specific low back pain where there isn’t a diagnosis (you don’t need a label on it saying you have injured your joint, muscle, ligament or disc).

But even with that huge amount improving within 6 weeks – many of those recur again so it is important to ensure your muscles are fully rehabilitated, just like you would if you were returning to sport following a hamstring injury for example. Because if you can get that Multifidis firing better again that is one less thing to worry about and a much better chance of your back pain not coming back.

So if you keep asking yourself “why does my back hurt again!” go see a local physio for some advice and rehab exercises – they do work and the effects do last (1)


Hip pain, Knee pain, Spine

How to Protect and Strengthen Cartilage

July 19, 2016 • By

strengthen cartilageWhat if I told you that to keep your joint cartilage strong you need to put load on your joints – Not bike and swim?

Your articular cartilage forms the smooth covering inside your joints and often when someone has degenerated cartilage they are told to decrease loading and get into non-weight-bearing exercise – such as swimming and cycling.

strengthen cartilageIn a way this makes sense in that if you want to preserve and strengthen your cartilage, you wouldn’t run and jump and lift weights, would you? But our body doesn’t work like that, it responds positively to the force we put through it and really lives by the use it or lose it motto.

Recent research shows that:

Through putting load (body weight) on our cartilage we actually promote Transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta) gene expression which helps to maintain our articular cartilage strength – That is pretty awesome.(1)

So without going into boring detail – By doing exercise which loads and compresses your cartilage, you actually help to strengthen cartilage and maintain homeostasis.

So get out there and walk, run or lift to keep your joints healthy – whether it is your knees, hips, back or any other weight-bearing joint.


Back pain, Core strengthening, Spine

QL Muscle Strengthening: Beat Low Back Pain

February 16, 2016 • By

Your Quadratus Lumborum muscle (better knows as your QL muscle) can cause you all sorts of back pain and refer pain into your hip and glutes. Having weakness in your QL muscle can mean recurring and frustrating back pain that can cause way too much trouble

So following on from our previous article on how to treat the QL yourself through an easy muscle release, here is how to strengthen it up and beat low back pain.

Strengthen QLSo, what does your QL muscle do?

Easy, it comes from the top of your pelvis (the iliac crest) and attaches on to the bottom rib and the side of your spine. From there, it acts to help you extend backwards, bend to the side, bend forwards and can help in breathing.

So the QL does rather a lot. Not only that but because it attaches to all your lumbar vertebrae and your pelvis, when it goes into spasm, it can really pull on your spine and can also lift one side of the pelvis – Making it seem like your “back is out”

 

Strengthen Quadratus lumborumAnd you know what? The QL can be a real pain in the butt.

Literally. As with a lot of muscles in the body which cause you to feel pain elsewhere and not where the real issue is. The QL refers pain into the buttock and side of the hip, making it quite deceiving as to where the pain is actually coming from.

 

Symptoms of QL muscle dysfunction:

  • Deep, aching in the low back, often worse in sitting or standing
  • Pain with coughing and sneezing
  • Pain rolling to either side when lying on your back
  • Pain can refer to the groin and mimic sciatica symptoms
  • You may have one side of your pelvis lifted higher than the other

 

Strengthening exercises for the QL:

  1. Side plank

Level 1: Hold

Side plank QL strengthening

Build up your QL endurance by holding a side plank.

Aim for a one minute hold (this is the goal, you may not be able to do it straight away!)

Tip: don’t stick your bum out, tuck it in

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Level 2: Leg lifts

Side plank leg raises

When you can hold a straight side plank comfortably for a minute, step it up.

Lift your hips up into a side plank but now lift your top leg up and down while holding the side plank.

Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps, but you may need to start with less reps!

Tip: don’t let your top leg come forward or toes point up.

 

 

2. One sided carry

Ql strengthening exercise

Here, the QL muscle on the opposite side to the weight you are carrying is working hard to keep you upright.

Hold onto a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand and do some laps (e.g. 10 x 10m laps on each side)

Tip: try to stay upright!

 

 

And that’s it. Easy. Combine those few exercises into your workout at least 3 x weekly to improve the strength of your QL muscle and help beat back pain.

Tip: This is a great stretch to help unload the low back!

 


Health, Spine

QL muscle release – Exercise for low back pain

March 25, 2015 • By

Your Quadratus Lumborum (QL) muscle is a very common cause of back pain, so being able to treat this yourself, effectively, can be a huge relief. Here is a great self QL muscle release to loosen off your low back and reduce your low back pain.

First of all, here is a bit of information about the QL:

QL release anatomyAnatomy:

This muscle runs down either side of your low back, from the top of your pelvis, all the way to your bottom rib. This is why it can affect your breathing when it is in spasm and it pulls down on the lower rib of yours. It also attaches along the way to the side of your spine.

Purpose:

  • Side flexion/bending of the spine
  • Fixation/stabilization of the low rib

 

The problem:

QL release trigger pointsWhen muscle knots form in the Ql or it goes into spasm due to overload or injury, then it can give you real grief! Often this is more one-sided than the other also, giving you a real lopsided feeling and can make it seem like you have one leg shorter than the other or that your “pelvis is out” (which can’t really happen). The QL refers pain elsewhere and isn’t always felt at the muscle. The referred pain is generally felt in the outer hip and in the glutes and is often described as a deep ache but can be a sharp pain when moving. The trouble is that this muscle is very hard to stretch – but, it is quite easy to do a QL muscle release!

 

 

QL muscle release: Release you low back

DSC05051_edited1. Position

Lie on your back and place a firm Massage Ball under your QL muscle, which you will find in-between the top of your pelvis and your bottom rib, off to each side of your spine.

 

 

 

Myofascial release low back and erector spinae2. Action:

Bring the knee on the same side as the ball up towards your chest, which puts pressure onto the ball. Once you feel like you have the right spot (you will feel it!), holding onto your knee you can either:

1. Rock your knee out to the side and then in again and repeat, OR

2. Repeatedly bend your knee up and down towards your chest.

Slowly and gently work into it for 1-2 minutes on each side and feel free to move the ball up or down slightly to get the right spots.

 

Do this great myofascial release once a day for two weeks for longer-lasting results and check out our Ebook, packed with self-treatment advice and exercises for more.

Tip: Help prevent this recurring and giving you ongoing trouble by strengthening your QL and the surrounding muscle so that they can handle everything that is asked of them!

 

Note: If you have acute low back pain, pain going down your leg, or any neurological symptoms please see your local health professional first.


Back pain, Health, Mobility, Spine

Treat your stiff back and neck with a peanut…

March 3, 2015 • By

The peanut - for neck and back stiffnessThe self-treatment tool I use the most, especially while on tour with teams, has got to be the Peanut. This is a handy little tool that you can use to loosen up your stiff back very effectively, and it’s not bad for doing a bit of muscle work too! The great thing it, you can make one at home and I’m going to show you how.

It is perfectly suited to giving you’re spine a good loosen up as it has a nice groove down the middle for your vertebrae to rest in while bulging out to give the muscle down either side of your spine a nice firm massage. You can move it up and down your spine slowly, meaning at each level it;

1. Loosens up the muscles and other soft tissues and

2. Mobilizes your spine at the same time.

Your thoracic spine is very key for pain-free and strong neck and shoulders and is far too often overlooked and missed. So if you have any neck, shoulder or upper back pain or a stiff back – This will be a great exercise for you to try and even better to combine with this myofascial release for tight shoulders.

So, here is how to make your own peanut to mobilize your spine at home:

What you need:

1. Two balls (Mind out of the gutter!) – I prefer to use lacrosse balls but it is up to your preference, tennis balls can do a really good job too.

lacrosse balls

 

2. Tape: A good, strong and durable tape it best. I use strapping tape but that’s just because I have a lot of it! – Use what you have available.

Strapping tape - rigid

 

Put it all together:

Now all you need to do is strap the two balls together – the best way to do it is lengthwise around both balls at once and then around the middle before going around and around where-ever needed to hold them together. In other words, just give it a go, there is no exact way to do it!

How to use it?

It is best used in your upper back, otherwise known as your thoracic spine. Lie on your back and use you knees bent up and feet on the ground to roll it up and down. Stretching your arms over your head or across your chest can help also – experiment and give it a go, you will feel much better for it!

I will be making a video in the coming weeks to show you exactly how to give your upper back a good loosen up so stay tuned or make sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Good luck and let me know how you go!