is Back Pain?
Common back pain questions answered.
Trouble with your back does not simply produce pain in the back. It may be the cause of more remote symptoms like pain in the buttocks, groin or legs (commonly called sciatica). This can be brought about by pressure on specific nerve roots.
Problems in the back can also bring on pain in the head, neck, shoulders and arms because they can disturb the mechanical function of the whole body.
Back problems account for over 50% of the cases osteopaths see.
Osteopathic treatment is often the most effective first line of attack in trying to correct these very debilitating problems.
Most people think that back pain must be the result of injury. In fact, there are many disease states and pathological conditions that can give symptoms of backache. These include: Abdominal or Pelvic disease, Anxiety states, Arthritis, Cervical or Lumbar Spondylosis, Dermatological problems, Kidney disease, Rheumatic conditions, Tumours.
Osteopaths are skilled in diagnosing problems that may require further investigation or medical treatment.
While these specific conditions are not curable by osteopathic treatments, by correcting any underlying mechanical disturbances in the musculo-skeletal system, osteopaths can greatly relieve the pain and distress involved in some of these problems.
With your permission, the osteopath will contact your doctor if medical treatment is needed.
Most back troubles however, result from mechanical or functional disturbances of the spine and osteopaths have been successfully treating these problems for over 100 years.
Ten top tips to backcare
- For back pain, better to see your osteopath sooner than later.
- Take regular exercise – your osteopath can say what is right for you.
- Hours in one position can cause problems – avoid ‘computer hump’.
- During repetitive tasks, vary your rhythm and take frequent breaks.
- Adjust car seats and on long journeys take regular breaks to stretch.
- Pace yourself with heavy work like gardening – do not risk a disc!
- Watch children’s posture – they should not carry bags on one shoulder or spend too long at a computer without breaks.
- During pregnancy, osteopathy can help your body adjust to changes.
- Avoid strain when lifting, particularly small children and shopping.
- Your bed could be part of the problem. Seek osteopathic advice on choosing a new one.
It is not just the driver who can stiffen up in a car. Passengers are often seated for long periods of time in a fixed position.
Movement is the key for car, driver and passenger.
As a passenger, try to alter your position from time to time and sit with your knees bent and thighs level and comfortable.
Avoid sitting with your legs crossed; move them regularly.
For driver and passengers, stop regularly, ideally once an hour, especially when feeling tired. Get out of your vehicle and walk around it several times.
Stretch like a cat, gently moving your arms around, bringing your knees up to your hips, and stretching your whole body.
Back pain sufferers
Choose a car with an adjustable lumbar support (and use it). Alternatively, keep a flat cushion in the car for use in the small of your back.
Choose a car with a higher kerb height to make getting in and out less stressful on the spine.
Depressing the clutch increases the pressure on your back so choose an automatic to avoid this.
Power steering also significantly reduces the load on the spine.
Driving can give you:
- Neck Pain
- Shoulder Pain
- Wrist Pain
- Elbow Pain
- Back Pain
- Bottom Ache
- Hip Pain
- Knee Pain
- Foot and Ankle Pain
Is the car the right fit for you?
Sometimes, the design of the car itself can lead to back problems. If you have to drive particularly long distances, check out the cabin and layout of the controls with the four tests set out below.
If the car can pass these four simple tests then there is a good chance that it is suitable for the particular driver. By using these tests a prospective buyer can make an informed choice of car and hopefully avoid ‘driver’s back pain’.
The four tests:
- The Praying Test – The driver places both hands together, pointing forwards. If the steering wheel is not offset then the driver should be pointing straight at the centre of the wheel. The danger of having an offset wheel is that most drivers tend to rotate the middle of the spine to compensate for its position, producing long term back strain.
- The Fist Test – With the seat in the normal driving position make a fist with left hand keeping the thumb to the side of the index finger. It should be possible to insert the fist on the crown of the head.
If it is only just possible to insert the flat of the hand between the roof and the head then there is insufficient headroom. The danger of having too little headroom is that the driver may compensate for the lack of height by slouching in the seat which puts a strain on the spine and thighs.
- The Look Down Test – With both hands placed evenly on the steering wheel look down at the legs. It should be possible to see equal amounts of both legs between the arms. Frequently the left leg will be visible but the right leg will be obscured by the right arm which may indicate that the shoulder girdle is rotated to the left in relation to the pelvis.
- The Right Leg Test - This test should be performed after driving the car for a short while. Once again, look down and examine the position of the right leg. It is elevated above the level of the left or has it fallen out towards the edge of the seat? Is the right foot roughly in line with the thigh as it should be, or has it had to come across towards the centre of the car?
Car seats can be adjusted to suit your posture but make sure that you always:
- Keep your seat reasonably upright, leaning backwards only at a slight angle.
- Keep the headrest adjusted so that the centre of the headrest is level with your eyes. Do not set the headrest too low as this can allow more serious injury in an accident.
- When getting in, sit first then swing your legs into the car. When you get out, move the seat back before swinging your legs out.
- Do you ‘ride the clutch’, resting your foot in the air? No wonder your ankles or calf muscles hurt.
- To relax, raise your shoulders to your ears breathing in, then lower them as you breathe out. You may want to do this at every red traffic light, or major junction.
- Avoid reaching behind to get bags from the rear seat. Do not be lazy. Get out and open the door.
- Be careful when loading and unloading. Lift correctly.
- Avoid lifting unnecessary weights. Get help to change a tyre.
- Sit with arms gently bent at the elbow to the wheel and do not lean forward out of the seat.
- Wear a seatbelt and make sure it is properly adjusted. Make sure children also have appropriate seat belts and cushions.
Prevention is better than cure.
Sit properly, drive relaxed.
Osteopaths can advise on posture.
Osteopaths treat neck and back pain – and a great many other things as well.
If you are unlucky enough to be involved in a road accident osteopathy can help relieve the pain of injury, especially whiplash-type injuries.
Osteopaths are often asked by solicitors to write medico-legal reports on accident victims, to help them claim compensation.