Back pain and you

Back pain and you | Be in Motion Physiotherapy, Oakville, ON

How can I prevent back pain in my daily activities?

A good exercise program can help prevent it before it starts

Low back pain is a common complaint. It will affect most Canadians at some stage in their lives. People differ in their back issues, making each case unique.

Diagnosing the possible cause of a person’s low back pain should be left to a health professional such as a physician, physiotherapist, athletic therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor or osteopath. To determine the necessary course of action to rehabilitate daily back pain, the health professional performs a complete musculoskeletal assessment by looking at the patient's medical history and conducting an orthopedic examination.

The body’s wellness and functionality are largely determined by its mobility and strength. The lower back (lumbar spine) consists of a series of joints requiring both. Mobility refers to the ability of a joint to move throughout its available range of motion (ROM). The lumbar spine can be hypomobile (decreased mobility) or hypermobile (unstable). Mobility can increase with activities such as stretching, yoga and Pilates. For people with hypermobility (too much mobility), the joints are unstable and move past normal ROM, and the key to stabilizing this type of back issue is core strengthening.

Besides mobility and strength, another component of any rehabilitation program is strengthening. Good posture is essential and promoted through back strengthening exercises, as well as other exercises related to the core muscles. These core muscles help stabilize a person’s posture by aligning the spine, ribs and pelvis either statically or dynamically. Stronger back muscles result in less stress on the spine.

A good low back exercise program is one consisting of a series of stretching and strengthening exercises prescribed by a qualified health professional. The purpose of any exercise program is to improve the flexibility and strength of the torso, pelvis, low back and hips. Performing an exercise program on a regular basis will improve posture, work endurance and athletic performance.

Poor posture often results in back pain, particularly in the lower back, caused by either weak or stiff muscles. Increasing both the strength and flexibility of the back can often reduce or eliminate such back pain. Strong abdominal muscles and back muscles are crucial for supporting the lower back. Stretching and strengthening exercises work to remedy such posture issues.

Professional assessment is key to recovery. While strengthening and stretching practices will benefit most people, for specific conditions, a qualified health professional can teach proper exercises tailored to the individual’s back condition. With a core list of exercises, a patient can become proactive in his or her own back conditioning program.

Brian Empey, BPE, DipSIM, CAT(C), BHScPT, RCAMT, is a Certified Athletic Therapist and Registered Physiotherapist at Be In Motion Physical Therapy in Oakville, ON. Brian is a graduate of Sheridan College's Sports Injury Management Program in 1996 and McMaster University's Physiotherapy Program in 2000.

He has worked in professional sports with the Hamilton Tiger Cats and New York Islanders. Learn more at www.beinmotion.ca.