Spinal Prehab: Tips to Minimize and Understand Back Injuries
Everyone has a spine and for most of us the spine is made up of 23 vertebral discs that connect the skull to the pelvis. Our vertebrae do the essential job of protecting the spinal cord and are essential the our upright position.
As our culture is ever changing, and due to this spinal health is becoming increasing important. As our daily habits become increasingly sedentary so does the incidence of back pain and injuries go up and up. To understand more clearly it is important to know the different types of back pain: acute and chronic.
Acute: Acute is defined as lasting less than 4 weeks and often is due to a specific event or action. An example would be: picking up something heavy or moving quickly through a new range of motion causing muscle spasm or strain.
Chronic: Chronic pain is defined as lasting longer than 12 weeks. This type of pain usually begins low and slow gradually increasing regardless of rest and continuation of normal routine.
** note neither of these include pain going down the leg such as the commonly known Sciatica and you should always see a physio, or GP if you have had a traumatic event with the spine.
Acute Back Injuries:
Acute injuries are a result of completing a task in a position, range of motion with a load that you are unprepared for aka not strong enough to do. You may think following that sentence that I am going to tell you that “you didn’t lift something properly, maybe you didn’t use your legs enough bhla bhla”. However, all of this is pretty inaccurate.
Despite the manual handling courses, and claims that lifting with your back in a flexed position is more risky, dangerous, and will likely cause you an injury there is no current evidence to support this. Interestingly, there is research to directly refute this. Why do you hear lift with your legs so often, surely you would hear about it?! The reason you don’t is because research like this does not fit with many clinicians understandings, biases or beliefs. The idea you must keep your spine is neutral before doing something to reduce injury is crazy because there is no such thing as a neutral spines. It is also not possible when you bend and lift even with good/correct form to prevent spinal “bending”.
Ok, well why did I get injured? I’ll say it again - Injury comes from the body being exposed to a load it is unprepared for. You may be able to lift something in one position but put your body in another position where you will be untrained and less equipped that will cause injury. Does this mean that position is bad? No. But you still need to be progressive and build your strength in that position just like you did in the ones you usually do.
Exposing our spines to loads, stresses, and stains gradually and sensibly in lots of different ways they would adapt and its structures to become more robust and resilient to stresses and strains.
What can you do to prevent injury?
Practice moving in all different positions, ranges, and when you incorporate weights into these new positions remember you will most likely be untrained and weaker than other trained positions so be progressive and sensible.
Chronic Back Pain: One of the biggest impacts and costs on our modern society and workforce. The best advice I can say here is there is not perfect posture, flexed, sat straight up, arched, bent, sideways… etc. No sustained posture is good. What our spine loves is movement, and pain will inevitably come if we hold one position for long enough. The University of Utah School of Medicine researchers have found, standing and walking for as little as two minutes every hour benefits the spine and posture, but increases your overall life expectancy too. Sadly, there is no good posture, variety in movement is key and king. We were not made it sit as much as we did and finding ways to build in movement variety throughout the day is essential to kicking your back pain.
Our physio led classes are perfect for a 10 minute movement session mid-morning stretch or sweat session. Moving with classes you can trust that are always research led.
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