Five exercises to help avoid back pain from sitting

At this point, everyone knows sitting all day isn’t good for your health. But all kinds of jobs still require people to sit for prolonged periods of time.

You don’t have to put up with stiffness and back pain from sitting. Over time that pain can affect your ability to run, play sports, and exercise and negatively impact your health.

Glute Bridges

Lay down on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Next raise your butt and hips so that your body forms a straight line. Then lower yourself back down. That’s one rep. You should try to do three sets of ten. If that’s too easy, you can add a weight and hold it on your thighs while you do the reps. This exercise is great for your hips and glutes, and as an added bonus, your abs!

Couch Stretch

Place one leg on the floor, and the other on the couch, so that your knee is touching the back. Then flex your abs and butt and slowly raise your torso up so that you are standing tall. Hold that position for about 1 minute and then switch legs.

To push it to the next level, you can bring your foot on the floor up to the seat of the couch and try to raise your torso to a neutral position again. This will be tough at first, but can potentially undo years of sitting.

Grok Squat

This involves getting into a squatting position with your feet on the floor, your back straight, and your butt about as low as it will go. Think baseball catcher position. You should feel the stretch through your legs, back, and groin.

Leg Swings

It involves holding something for balance and then swinging your leg back and forth as high as it will go. You can start by going front-to-back with each leg, and then side-to-side. Try 20 swings of each kind.

 Fire Hydrants

To do the exercise, get on all fours and raise your leg out to the side as high as you can while keeping it bent. Then lower it down. That’s one rep. You should feel your hips and butt working.

Of course, the best exercise is to walk around every half hour or so, but that’s not always possible. So if you find yourself sitting for hours on end, try to do some, or all, of these exercises a few times a week.

Teenage pain often dismissed as growing pains

teenage child back hip neck chronic pain

A common belief is that pain in children will just go away or be forgotten when life takes over.

In the absence of an identifiable injury such as a sprain or fracture, childhood and adolescent pain is often disregarded – by doctors and parents alike.

The most common type of pain is spinal (back or neck), and many more adolescents complain of pain than is commonly recognised. Between one-third and half of all adolescents aged 13 and over report back pain about every month or even more often1. In fact, the prevalence of these conditions rises so sharply in early adolescence the rates approach adult levels by 18 years.

It’s becoming increasingly clear so-called non-specific “musculoskeletal conditions”, the leading causes of disability worldwide, are significant health issues in children.

Non-specific conditions mean that pain cannot be attributed to a defined and diagnosable anatomical cause. In adults, these conditions are recognised as complex disease states that have biological, psychological and socioenvironmental underpinning.

For a significant proportion of adolescents, non-specific pain has extensive impacts on health and quality of life. For example, in a study in Western Australia, about 20% of 17-year-olds reported either missing school, seeking health care, taking medication, interference with normal activities, or interference with physical/sporting activities due to back pain2. There is also evidence that persistent pain symptoms in adolescence predict chronic pain problems in adulthood3.

The blame for pain in kids is often directed at school bags, computer and small-screen device usage, posture, and/or other biomechanical targets. It is also sometimes believed (permanent) damage is being done to the spine, with lifelong consequences.

However, there is little evidence this is true.

Studies show socioeconomic, lifestyle, cognitive and psychological factors are just as strongly, or even more strongly, related to pain (particularly chronic pain) as physical factors4. These societal beliefs about “physical” causes of pain may be not only incorrect, but detrimental if they cause worry about the spine being fragile and discourage children from physical activity.

To date the complex interaction between painful events, the growing body, health influences, social or environmental influences from family, health care providers and schooling is not fully understood. In particular, very little is known about what brings on initial episodes of painful conditions and whether this underpins the link with future chronic pain.

Given wide recognition that early life events are critical in shaping health as people grow older, understanding the context of common painful conditions in early life is critical to inform future health.

It is important to provide effective treatment to those at risk of developing persistent pain. It is also important not to create medical problems out of transient aches and pains, i.e. not every child needs to be sent off for diagnostic imaging and intensive treatments. But a shift away from the narrow and outdated focus on school bags, posture and damaged spines as the only source of problems is a must.

Efforts to update the narrative around pain are as important for children as for adults.

References:

  1. Kamper, S.J., et al., Musculoskeletal pain in children and adolescents. Braz J Phys Ther. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/bjpt-rbf.2014.0149
  2. Beales, D.J., et al., Low back pain in 17 year olds has substantial impact and represents an important public health disorder: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health, 2012. 5 (12): p. 100.
  3. Hestbaek, L., et al., The course of low back pain from adolescence to adulthood: eight-year follow-up of 9600 twins. Spine, 2006. 31(4): p. 468-72.
  4. Chambers, C.T., et al., The epidemiology of chronic pain in children and adolescents revisited: a systematic review. Pain, 2011. 152(12): p. 2729-38.

Rib pain referral patterns

Costovertebral (rib) joints are starting to be recognised as a source of pain.

Mid-back pain is often misdiagnosed as either spinal (vertebral) pain or muscular pain. The figure below depicts pain referral patterns of various costovertebral joints – where the rib head joins the spine. This is a joint that when subluxated can induce its own pain patterns.

rib pain referral

Reference:

Young, B.A., et al., Thoracic costotransverse joint pain patterns: a study in normal volunteers. BMC Musculoskelet Disord., 2008. 9 (1): p140.


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