Looking after your lower back during lockdown

Looking after your lower back during lockdown

by Jason Pestel, Sports Massage Therapist at Lymm Osteopathic Practice

Whilst we are in ‘lockdown’ working life for so many of us has literally been turned on its head.

The daily commute to the office and the 9-5 culture has suddenly been replaced with staying at home. Old routines that we used to undertake have literally gone out the window. Those who worked in an office and sat at a desk, are now probably starting to crave their ergonomically adjustable office chairs and large monitor screens.

So what has this been replaced with at home? In so many cases probably a modest laptop screen that they need to constantly lean forward to see whilst sat at the kitchen or dining room table. For some, who do not have such space or are in shared accommodation, the sofa has become the new office chair, or in some extreme cases the bed is now the new office.

The most common back issue in office workers is a general non-specific back ache caused by poor posture when sitting and then exacerbated by prolonged periods in this position. It’s called non-specific because it’s not linked to one specific area of the lower back (ie muscles, disks, joints and ligaments) but coming from a combination of areas that are all being stressed by the problematic posture.

When you sit, all the weight from your upper body is transferred into your lumbar spine and through into the pelvis. If you have a history of lower back pain, constantly loading up the spine through prolonged sitting may make your injury worse and certain inhibit your recovery.

The soft tissues around the spine play a key role in the health of your back. They are a large, complex group of muscles that work together in supporting the trunk and holding the body upright. The three types of back muscles are:

  • Extensor muscles. Attached to the back of the spine which allow us to stand and lift objects. These include the large muscles in the lower back (erector spinae), which help hold up the spine.
  • Flexor muscles. Attached to the front of the spine and includes the abdominals. They enable us to flex, bend forward, lift and arch the lower back.
  • Oblique muscles. These are attached to the sides of the spine. They help us to rotate and maintain proper posture.

To move and perform daily tasks without pain is key to being able to live a happy and healthy life.

As a Sports Massage Therapists I advise all my clients to keep mobile and active (‘unless medically advised not to’). So, what does this mean and what can you do during this unprecedented time to keep your spine, joints and muscles in good condition?

  • Take regular breaks. Prolonged hunching and slouching can cause your back, core and abdominal muscles to become strained and painful. This can slowly develop into stiffness and weakness in the trunk and lower back.
  • Be conscious of your posture. Try to stand and sit up straight. While at the desk keep your computer monitor at eye level so your head doesn’t tilt. Pull your shoulders back and keep your back flat against the chair. Using a lumbar support (such as a cushion or rolled towel) will fill in the gap between your lumbar spine and the chair, providing you with support and enabling you to keep your upper back straight and avoid slouching.
  • Take advantage of being able to exercise daily. A brisk walk in the park or an online indoor boot camp class. The choice of activity is yours but make sure it’s part of your daily lockdown routine.
  • Stretch. Perform some simple stretches. This can help reduce the tension in the muscles that support the spine and improve the circulation to your back, easing any strains or aches that occur due to inactivity and lack of mobility. Click on the link below to see a demonstration of some simple lower back mobility stretches that can help.

I’m looking forward to treating my clients and welcoming new patients to the practice once we open again.

If you have any questions or need any advice in the meantime please call Lymm Osteopathic Practice on 01925 752264.