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.

Osteoarthritis

osteoarthritis degeneration back painDegeneration of the spine is a prevalent problem that generally advances with age, though is not always restricted to the elderly1.

The presence of osteoarthritis is not always consistent with pain either. While progressive joint failure may cause pain and disability, approximately 50% of people with osteoarthritic changes don’t have any symptoms2. This is known as the “structure-symptom discord”.

How the spine degenerates and how pain is experienced is multifactorial. Firstly, osteoarthritis begins when there is an imbalance of mechanical load that exceeds the limit of what joint tissues can handle. Bony changes and inflammation cause dysfunction and instability of the joints. Secondly, changes to the nervous system occur around the spine, then spinal cord, and finally brain. How people move starts to change; muscle strength changes; and finally sensory awareness of their body changes. When these systems break down, the person experiences persistent pain (Fig. 1).

biopsychosocial model structure symptom_550

Figure 1. Biospsychosocial model depicting the relation of structural pathology to the experience of pain

How such dramatic alterations in shape of the spine occur over time (Fig. 2) is primarily due to a decrease in nutrition to the discs between the vertebrae3. The primary source of nutrition for the intervertebral discs are the end plates of the vertebrae. As degeneration progresses, fissures, cracks, clefts and fractures occur in the end plates, resulting in them thinning and water volume being lost from within the disc. This reduces disc height, misaligning mechanical forces and changing the shape of the spine (Fig. 3). As a consequence, more stress and strain is placed on the joints of the spine creating back pain. Long term pain can lead to more permanent, dysfunctional changes in the central nervous system ■

spinal degeneration disc compression_550

Figure 2. Spinewave case example of degeneration of the lumbar spine over 23 years resulting in scoliosis to the right and persistent low back pain

disc degeneration

Figure 3. Qualitative stress distribution across vertebral end plate for normal and degenerated intervertebral disc under pure compressive and eccentric compressive loading

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Back pain can be caused by depression

Back Pain

People with depression are 60 percent more likely to develop low back pain in their lifetime, according to Australian research. This is the first study to show that depression itself may actually trigger back pain rather than the injury being the cause.

The research, published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research, analysed data from 11 studies covering a total of 23,109 people.

It found people with symptoms of depression had a much higher risk of developing low back pain in the future compared with those showing no depression. The risk of low back pain also increased in patients with more severe levels of depression.

Paulo Ferreira from the University of Sydney says the research suggests that up to 61,200 cases of low back pain in Australia are partially attributed to depression.

“Low back pain is a debilitating condition, particularly when coupled with other health conditions, so I hope this discovery will lead to better treatment in the future,” says Ferreira.

“When patients come to us with both back pain and depression their cases are much more complex. They don’t respond to treatment in the same way as patients who only experience back pain – they take much longer to recover and treatment can be expensive.”

The study suggests depression and back pain should be treated simultaneously. Other studies estimate that up to 48 percent of those with back pain have symptoms of depression.

The latest research doesn’t explain why, but it could be because people with depression often have lower levels of physical activity and poor sleep or due to issues with neurotransmitters which impact both mood and pain thresholds.

Reference:

Pinheiro, M.B., et al., Symptoms of depression and risk of new episodes of low back pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis, 2015. 67(11): p. 1591-1603.


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