The lower back is always working hard as it has to carry all the weight of the upper body during everyday activities and especially in sport, injuries are common with all the sudden stopping and starting, twisting and turning. Pain can be slight or severe and sometimes there is no pain at all but to stand up straight is impossible. Also low back pain can heal within three or four days but can persist for much longer. Old or young, many people suffer from back pain at one time or another.
The lower back, or lower spine, is made up of five bony vertebrae joined together by ligaments, muscles and sponge-like discs between the bones that cushion the bones as the body moves. In the lower spine the easier movements are bending sideways or backwards but bending forward and twisting are more restricted which is why there are so many injuries when lifting.
Any undue stress on the lower back can cause injuries such as overbalancing whilst lifting weights or twisting and bending for low balls or shuttles in racquet sports. However sometimes we can`t think of anything we have done to cause the problem and we can only put it down to the probability that we have maybe played a few too many shots or hit a few too many golf balls.
Pain in the lower back can vary from an ache to chronic back pain. The pain can also change for example if you suddenly hurt your back you may feel a stabbing pain in a certain area but it can change to an aching pain that feels to have spread over the whole of your back, or, a pain can start as a niggle and become increasingly worse. Also lower back pain can cause the legs to feel numb. Whichever pain you have, there will be some movements that increase the pain and some positions that will relieve it. It is important though to be aware of how you stand and sit, for example sitting in a slumped position with your legs crossed may feel better but this will not help your back to recover as quickly as it might.
If you know your injury is minor the first thing to do is lie down, it is best to lie flat and avoid using lots of pillows, the flatter the better. Try not to curl up on your side even though this is more comfortable. Apply ice using a thin towel between ice and skin to prevent ice burn every two or three hours for the first 24 hours. Laying down for the first 24 hours when you can, will help, and when you are sitting, it is important to have your lower back supported with a cushion. Also don`t sit down for long periods, walk around in between. If you are standing, avoid putting your weight on one leg.
Whilst trying to rest your back, avoid movements that cause back, pain but it is also necessary to keep moving and very importantly your posture must be good. Poor posture may feel more comfortable but it allows the ligaments to stretch and will not aid recovery. The sooner you can start simple exercises the better and for minor back injuries this is usually after about two to three days.
Lay face down, leaning on you elbows. Press your stomach and pelvis to the floor and this will arch your back. Raise you upper back upwards keeping your arms on the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat twice.
Lay on your back with a cushion under your head, and with your hands pull your knee onto your stomach. Push you other leg down towards the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat twice.
Lay on you back with your hands under your lower back for support, perform cycling movements with you legs 30 times.
Lay on your back with your knees bent. Holing your knees together, slowly roll you knees from side to side, keeping your upper body still. Repeat 20 times.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and your arms by your side. Pull in your stomach muscles and press your lower back to the floor and raise your bottom at the same time. Hold for 5 seconds. Relax and repeat 10 times.
Lay on your stomach with your arms by your side and lift both legs together a few inches and raise your upper body slightly at the same time.
Strengthening the stomach by working the abdominal muscles will help protect the back, so sit ups are really beneficial. Also holding your stomach muscles in whenever you can during the day is helpful, and it`s something to do if you are in a queue!
Kneeling on hands and knees and holding them still and with your head down, arch you back upwards. Then do the opposite, lower you back to hollow i and raise you head. Repeat 10 times.
Kneeling on hands and knees with head down, bend one knee forward, aiming to touch your head, then stretch your leg out behind you and at the same time raise your head which arches the back slightly. Repeat 4 times on each leg in turn and perform twenty of these on each leg.
In a standing position with you arms held out in front of you, turn you upper body to each side in a controlled movement. Do approximately 20 to each side building up gradually to more.
Standing with your arms by your side, bend you upper body from side to side. Be careful not to lean forward. Repeat each side 10 times building up to 20 or 30.
The simple answer to lowering the risk of future back injury and pain is to think. After a back injury of any kind you need to consciously be aware of how you are using your back ar all times. Even if you have had had no trouble for two or three years a back has a tendency to go again. Correct posture is of utmost importance as incorrect posture allows the back to sag and stretches the ligaments unnecessarily. When standing try to keep weight evenly balanced on both legs, and when sitting your back should be supported and try to avoid crossing you legs as this is also unnecessary ligament stretching. Avoid sitting for long periods if possible and walk or at least stand up for five minutes. If you are working at a work surface, make sure this is at a height that is suitable for you. At any time you can pull you stomach in to strengthen your abdominal muscles which helps to take strain from the back. Don`t be tempted to overdo things and try to incorporate a healthy diet into you lifestyle, especially if participating in a demanding sport. Remembering the severe back pain that you had will also help you to look after your back!
Always consult your Doctor before performing any exercise or treatment. All information on the common sports injuries web site is provided as general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any sports injury.