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self help

Back pain, Core strengthening

Acute Low Back Pain – Getting up and moving

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Low back pain is an incredibly common condition and is the single most common thing I see in practice every day. Luckily there are some great exercises to do early on to get you up and moving.

The following facts show just how seriously we should take back pain!

The bad

  • Low back pain affects 84% of the population at some point in their lives (1,2)
  •  38% of people have back pain each year (3)
  • Close links with low back pain and neck pain (15 fold increased the risk of neck pain)

The Good

  • 50-80% recover within 4-6 weeks
  • This is not uncommon

It may feel really sore and at times disabling but as long as you follow my recommendations below you have a good chance of recovering 100%

In most cases, the majority of low back pain is not serious. What a lot of health professionals do not tell their patients is that 85% of low back pain is categorized as “Non-specific low back pain”. This means that the pain and disability do not have a definitive cause or diagnosis. This non-specific low back pain is what we will be talking about today and I will be giving you the information and exercises to get you walking right and up straight again.

Because 50-80% of people recover in 6 weeks the usual advice is to take painkillers and keep active – but the thing is there is more you can do to speed it along!

First I need to say, yes there is the remaining 15% of back pain that is specific and does have a diagnosis so it is important to have these ruled out and see your doctor – especially if the pain is not improving.

Below I am going to outline a guideline for getting your back to the best it can be when you experience acute low back pain.

Phase 1. Initial inflammatory phase:

This is the stage where most likely it is uncomfortable to walk, bend over etc and you just want to curl up in a ball and stay there (that will not help!). In this phase you need to abide by the Tips below:

  • Number one rule is to keep moving, within reason. This prevents the structures around the spine such as the muscles in spasm from stiffening up too much. This is also very important in order to decrease the loss of stabilizing muscle activity. Now you don’t need to continuously keep moving – just don’t stay in one position for a long period (more than 20 minutes).

Bed rest is one of the worst things for back pain

  • Gentle range of motion exercise: knee rocker – Lying on your back with your knees bent up and feet on the ground – slowly let your knees drop to one side, and then the other. This is a gentle exercise and not to be forced or pushed into pain. Little and often throughout the day.
  • Safe sleeping positions: The best position is in side-lying with your knees bent up a little and a pillow between the knees. This position decreases the forces on the spine and allows muscles to relax.
  • If you must sleep on your back then have a pillow under your knees to unload the spine.
  • Stretch to straighten up: when in back pain your hip flexors tighten up and put a shear force through your spine and cause you to have a bent over, shuffling posture.

hip flex 1hip flex 2

Tip: to get a good stretch “tuck your bum in” or draw your front hip bones towards the roof. You should feel it in the front of your thigh or hip.

Hold for 1 minute.

Phase 2. Recovery:

In this phase, the main things causing stiffness and pain are muscles that are tight and in spasm in your hips, glutes and low back.

1. Glute stretch: To get into the below stretch, start in four-point kneeling and bring one knee forward between your hands. then extend you

To get into the below stretch, start in four-point kneeling and bring one knee forward between your hands. Then, extend your other leg out behind you and across to the other side. Lean forward in this until you feel a stretch in your glute region. To add more of a stretch, walk your hands out in front of you. Hold for 1 minute each side

glut and Lat stretch - Hip flexibility glut and Lat stretch - Hip flexibility

2. Hip flexor stretch: as above in phase 1

3. Bird-dog exercise:

In four-point kneeling slowly raise one arm and leg on opposite sides, making sure to keep your back straight (imagine your dinner is sitting on your hips – it is all about control). Lower down in control and repeat, 10 times each side twice.

Beginners: Start by raising one leg only.

birddog 1birddog 2

4. Bridge, level one:

START POSITION: Lying on your back with your knees bent.
Stabilization: Tighten abdominals.
Squeeze your buttocks together and lift buttocks off the floor until your body is aligned. Hold for 5 seconds and then lower down. repeat 10 times twice.

Brideg - up Brideg 1 legges - up

Phase 3: Strengthening and back stability – and maintain!

To do this make it a routine to do my top five Low back pain exercises daily.

Maintaining core stability is important in preventing flare-ups and ensuring you at your best if flare-ups do happen, to speed up recovery.

Thanks for reading and remember looking after your back is ALWAYS important, not just when it is sore.

Looking for a more detailed self-rehab plan? Download our Complete Low Back Self-Rehab Guide


groin pain, Hip pain, Lower limb

Hip Arthritis: The best self-management exercises

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Hip Osteoarthritis affects 11.5% of men and women and can be an extremely debilitating Hip osteoarthritis self treatment, self help exercises to decrease paindisease for those of you affected. Clinical guidelines for best treatment recommend a combination of conservative non-drug treatment and drug therapies and in particular a focus on “self help and patient driven treatments”. This is what I want to give you today – the information, advice, tools and exercises that you need to decrease the pain and limitations from Hip Arthritis and feel great!

Article layout:

  1. Risk factors for hip OA
  2. Exercise program
  3. Physical activity and weight loss
  4. Physio benefits and self-help tools

Risk factors: Developing arthritis of the hip is due to a combination of factors that add up to increase the load through your hip joint and leading to increased degenerating and bone growth.

Below are the main factors leading to Hip OA:

– Joint shape and past injury

– Predisposition to OA: Gender, age, race, genetics

– Poor muscle function and stability surrounding the hip

Factors adding to OA pain and progression:

– Obesity

– Physical activity levels

– Co-morbidity

– Muscular function.

So: There are definitely some factors there such as joint shape, past injury and age, that we cannot alter, but there is A LOT that we can help with and improve, so in the rest of this post, that is exactly what we are going to do!

Goals of program:

– Unload the hip joint.

– Strengthen and stabilize muscles surrounding the hip.

– Address the contributing and aggravating factors.

Exercise Program:

birddog exercise to muscle coordinatin, glute activation. decrease low back and hip pain

Bird-Dog exercise

Goal: In order to increase muscle coordination and glute activation.

Action: on your hands and knees, slowly extend out your opposite arm and leg, hold for 5 seconds then lower down and repeat 10 times.

Tips: start with just one leg if this is too hard.

 

bridge - glute strenght, decrease back, hip and knee pain.Bridge exercise

Goal: to increase strength and activation of low back and hip extensor muscles.

Action: Lying on your back with knees bent, squeeze your glutes and lift your bottom and low back off the ground. Hold for 5 seconds, lower down and repeat 10 times.

Tip: to advance, cross arms over chest and keep one leg straightened out in the air.

Clam exercise plus - gluteus medius strengthening, pelvic stabilityClam exercise

Goal: to increase hip stability and balance and to reduce hip drop when walking.

Position: Side lying with top elbow on the ground, knees bent, ankles together and importantly the top knee sticking out 1-2 inches further that the bottom knee.

Action: Making sure not to let your pelvis rotate backwards – lift your top knee up roughly 20cm and lower down in control. Reps: Build up to 30reps on each side.

hip flex 2Hip Flexor stretch

Goal: To unload the hip joint, by lengthening tight muscles.

Action: In the position shown, reach up tot he sky, tuck your bottom underneath you and hold for 1 minute.

Tip: Add a cushion under your knee if sore.

 

 

glut and Lat stretch - Hip flexibilityGlute stretch

Goal: To unload the hip joint, by lengthening tight muscles.

Position: starting on hands and knees, bring one knee in between your hands and straighten the other leg behind you. walk your hands out in front, first onto your elbows and then reaching out if possible.

Tip: take the back leg across to the opposite side.

Advanced exercise:

Single leg Squat, hip stability and strengthDouble and single leg squats: These exercises make the hip stabilizers work in unison and are great for those of you with mild OA.

Start performing Double leg squats and progress to 1 legged, making sure not to work into pain.

Tip: stick your bottom out like you are going to sit down.

 

Do all exercises daily and twice daily if you have the time!

Physical activity and weight loss

Increase load though excess body weight can cause increased pain and disease progression and is something we can definitely do something about! Having a graded exercise program where you gradually increase your activity levels can decrease, pain, increase quality of life and importantly reduce the need for joint replacement in people with hip osteoarthritis.

The best way to do this? set an achievable goal eg. Bike, 10km, walk 3 km, run 20 minutes, swim 500m etc and the time you want to do it in(eg. 2 months) then build slowly towards this! Not only will exercise help your hip arthritis but it will improve your peace of happiness and well-being over-all!

There is a lot of people out there saying to stay off arthritic joints but exercise has been proven to be very beneficial for arthritis so it is a matter of doing what your body can handle – swimming and biking are great as they put less load through the joints.

The Benefits of Physiotherapy:

The benefits of manual therapy are very real and can make a huge difference to your pain and movement. To help out with the great work to you do at home (see exercises above!) I fully recommend consulting a good hand-on Physiotherapist/ Physical Therapist and you won’t be disappointed.

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Quick Stability and Balance test

Glute activation: the missing link


Health, neck pain

Headaches and Neck Pain – Self trigger pointing to abolish Knots

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In this post I will tell you how to get relief and get rid of headaches and annoying knot sin your neck yourself! A fantastic tool that everyone needs to know – Don’t rely on drugs, medication and heat packs – treat yourself!

First of all, I would like to say that I really believe that there is such a thing as good pain! Some of my patients may disagree with this at the time of treatment of course but if not immediately, then the day after, you will feel markedly better. A lot of this “Good pain”  is felt during trigger point release and deep massage, when the tissue is released, it feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulder at times and relieves a lot of pain – namely Headaches and niggly Neck Pain!

Another way to look at this is a little bit of pain for a whole lot of gain!

I am going to run through a couple of techniques that you can utilise YOURSELF along with strengthening exercises to beat headaches and neck pain. These can be performed yourself or you can get someone else to do them for you:

Self-massage:

Starting position – I find that prone lying (on your back) is best as this way it is easier to relax and you aren’t using all the muscles to hold you up. You can also give it a go in sitting or another position you find comfortable.

Motion – using the hand on the same side as you want to massage, bring you hand back and place your three middle fingers on the back of your neck right below your skull. This gives you a good idea of the area you need to be massaging. Now simply using these fingers or just the index and middle gently begin massaging into the muscle using circulatory motions and remembering to keep good contact on the skin. The idea with this is to find the muscle that feels harder, tighter or knotty and work into this to warm it up, stretch it out and increase blood flow.

 If someone else is performing the massage on youlielye on your back with your head supported on a pillow, have this awesome person sit behind your head and place their hands under the upper portion of your neck on each side.

 Trigger point release: I have listed this technique second as it is best to do after light massage when the muscle is warmed up.

In the same position as described above, use your index and middle finger to find the trigger points in your sub-occipital muscles. You will find these at the back of your neck in the at the base of your skull. A trigger point as described in Beating Headaches is basically a point in a tight muscle which is especially hard and sore to touch and often refers pain up into your head.

 When one of these points is found you need to apply pressure to the point with your index finger supported by your middle finger. Apply pressure so that there is mild pain (it needs to be bearable – if you are too aggressive the muscle will bunch up more). Maintain this pressure until the pain begins to subside and at this point you need to more pressure, without taking your fingers off. This increase in pressure should be performed 2-3 times and then the pressure can be taken off. It can take ten seconds to over a minute for the pain to start easing and the muscle to relax so you need to hang in there!

Tip – give the muscle a gentle rub after this to make it feel more normal.

Next – move on to another trigger point if there are any more on the same or other side.

 Image

Note: Trigger point release can at times cause aching and an increase in pain/ headaches but improvements will show the day after.

For further information see: Beating Headaches and HeadacheProofMe


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