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How to alleviate back pain
Working from home without the right furniture, lack of exercise during lockdown and the stress and uncertainty caused by the health crisis have joined a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, sleep disorders and smoking as the main causes of back pain. It therefore comes as no surprise, in recent months, that the number of people suffering from back pain has increased considerably. At SHA we propose three ways to alleviate and prevent this ailment that affects both physical and mental health.
José Luis Tabueña, physiotherapist at SHA Wellness Clinic, explains that “in most cases, the origin of the problem is a muscular imbalance, which causes people to adopt an incorrect posture that causes back pain over time. Therapeutic exercise is very useful to alleviate and prevent it because it gradually improves both muscle tone and balance, which has a direct influence on posture”. Of course, these exercises must always be prescribed by a physiotherapist and are highly functional: they are performed slowly and with very controlled ranges of movement to prevent injury, are usually done without weights or resistance (or with very little), and there is no need to go to the gym because they use things that almost everyone has at home. In addition, it is important that the exercises include a lot of motor control of the movement to avoid compensating.
If your upper back hurts, the expert advises “doing exercises that improve the balance and tone of specific muscles, such as the rhomboids, lower trapezius, serratus anterior or deep neck flexors”. A very effective way to strengthen the neck is to lie on your back on the floor or bed and raise your head, tucking your chin in slightly. This works the muscles in the front and side of the neck.
For those who spend long hours in front of the computer, José Luis recommends basic postural hygiene and ergonomic guidelines such as “positioning the chair right and having a good height in relation to the table, not sitting for long periods in the same position, getting up every hour and walking around for a while and doing movements that release tension in the neck, arms, shoulders and waist. In addition, using a cordless, ergonomic mouse will help you avoid neck and tendonitis problems”.
Rachel Rose, Mind & Body expert at SHA Wellness Clinic, warns that, “although we usually feel pain in the lower back and neck, it’s the areas with little native range of motion, such as the thoracic and dorsal, where the tension is created. To open the entire rib cage and stretch the spine, I recommend working lying face up on the floor, which serves as a reference, alternating asymmetrical and symmetrical postures and moving the arms in harmony with the breath: raising them when breathing in and lowering them when breathing out. In addition, seeing yourself in a mirror can be very useful because you can visually see any imbalances, for example, if you have more strength in the right shoulder or if your left hip is slightly elevated. This is how you can become aware of the problems that cause back pain and start to solve them”.
“There is a very direct link between breathing and a healthy spine”, says Rachel. That is why it’s important to learn to breathe correctly, that is, using the diaphragm and rib muscles. This keeps you from forcing breathing or overloading the muscles in general. In addition, breathing moves the cerebrospinal fluid, which nourishes the intervertebral discs. These cartilaginous cushions between the vertebrae act as a kind of shock absorber, distributing the loads generated in the spine. And in many cases, constant back pain that worsens over time is due to problems in these discs, which dry out or bulge”.