Quite a few patients have been coming to see me in the last couple of weeks with low back pain. They often say, “Nick should I do this exercise, or should I take these painkillers or what’s the best stretch to relieve my back pain?
So, Instead of me talking about the most common exercise to do to relieve your symptoms, I thought I’d talk about three small things that can have a really big impact on your lower back pain.
- Keep your lower back discs hydrated
One thing that I often see with my patients is those that are smokers, often have worse back pain. Yes, that’s right, smoking and lower back pain are related. So how does smoking affect low back pain? Smoking actually takes away vital nutrients such as oxygen out of the shock absorbing discs in your lower back. These discs absorb the forces that are applied to your lower back so the less nutrient-rich they are, the less able they are to absorb shock. Therefore, if you’re wanting to significantly reduce your back pain, then you should seriously consider reducing the amount of cigarettes that you smoke.
Closely tied to this is the amount of water that we drink during the day. When I quiz my clients on how much water they drink, few drink the recommended eight glasses per day. These same discs that can become nutrient restricted in smokers, can also become dehydrated, again, losing their shock absorbing properties. Just an interesting fact, when you wake up in the morning, you’re actually taller than what you are at the end of the day because your discs are more hydrated overnight compared with at the end of the day. If you’re in a sitting job, you’re a smoker and you’re not drinking enough water, then your chances of having a healthy back are reduced.
2. Wear supportive footwear
Many patients present to me wearing flat-soled shoes or canvas-based shoes or ballet flats or high heels even. These types of shoes can contribute about 25% extra force on to the lower back. So if you’re struggling with back pain you want to avoid these types of shoes and stick to supportive footwear such as running shoes or specially designed supportive footwear.
3. Keep your buttock muscles strong
Having appropriate backside strength is critical to making sure your lower back is as healthy as possible. So many of us are lacking enough butt strength, particularly those in the older age-group. Having an increase in gluteal strength is closely linked to a reduction in lower back pain. Quite a lot of research is coming out now to say that if you can just increase your buttock strength by 10 or 20%, you can significantly reduce your lower back pain by upwards of 50%. Easy ways to increase your gluteal strength include: squats, sit-to-stands, walking lunges.
So to summarise:
- Avoiding smoking and drinking water to keep your lower back discs hydrated
- Wearing supportive footwear
- Keep your glutes nice and strong.
It’s three small things that can be done that will have a big impact on your lower back pain. If you someone with back pain, then please share this with them.
If you’ve got any questions, please feel free to reach out.
Yours in health,
Concentric Rehabilitation Centre – Ashfield Physiotherapy & Exercise Physiology