Archive for December 2010

Treatment for lower back pain

Treatment for lower back pain.

Let’s talk about muscle pain today and because the most common type of muscle pain is lower back pain let’s make that todays area of focus.

Just about everyone suffers from lower back pain at some point. Modern life pretty much guarantees that. Even when we exercise regularly, the things we do to excess during the day contribute to our most important muscles malfunctioning. This results in lower back pain.

The most significant muscles governing locomotion and stability are the glutes. The tight sling of muscles we all know as the buttocks.  Yet every working day in Ely, Cambs I can be almost certain that I will see at least one patient with problematic glutes complaining of lower back pain, usually more than one.
The glutes are central to the posterior chain. It is vital for them to work efficiently otherwise other muscles are recruited to do their job. The whole body then loses strength and balance and lower back pain can develop as a consequence.

So, you’re one of the good guys. You get up early to get to the gym before work. Excellent. Then you spend an hour sitting on your glutes on your commute to work. Not so good. You get to work and spend most of your day sitting in meetings, at your computer or on the edge of someone else’s desk with your body contorted at a strange angle whilst you exchange ideas. Bad. Then another commute before later, worn out, collapsing in front of the TV, very bad. It gives me lower back pain to just contemplate a day like this.

All that sitting overstretches the glutes. They get used to being lengthened for excessive periods. So much so that the muscle spindles re-set themselves in the lengthened position, so that when you stand up and ask them to work they simply don’t have enough tension in them to do the job they are supposed to do. The result of this lack of support from the glutes is often lower back pain and over tightened hip extensors which causes hip pain too.

So what can you do about it, you can’t give up work and it’s a pretty long cycle ride to get there. The answer is to re-balance the central stabilisers with stretching, exercise and massage.
How do you know if your glutes are weak? The quickest way to tell is to stand sideways to a full length mirror. Do you have a flat rear? It may look small  and neat but chances are if it doesn’t protrude much further than the line of your back, then your glutes are lacking tone. Does your pelvis tip forward slightly? Do you get low back pain? Time to do some work on your deep muscles.

Your first port of call should be your doctor to ensure that there is nothing amiss. If he or she says you are ok then you can start working on your recovery. When I see a patient we look at ways of putting this into action and work towards getting back to a body which is mobile and pain free.

Stretches for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Stretches for Neck and shoulder Pain

We are all working hard right now to get our desks clear in time for the holiday season. Stress levels are rising and this leads to neck and shoulder pain and tension.

Long hours at your desk or craning towards your laptop in the evenings can really exacerbate neck and shoulder pain. Don’t underestimate how much lifestyle can affect your body.  The key factor in muscle pain is often just the sheer number of hours you spend doing the same old things with no respite.I am always amazed at how much people expect their bodies to do without exercise, or worse, if they are actually taking time to exercise, without stretching out.

If your neck and shoulders are hurting then take a break. Go and get a coffee, Do a few simple stretches. Your neck and shoulders do a big job supporting your head and sitting hunched forward over your desk closes up your chest and puts strain on the muscles which keep your shoulder joints moving freely. Some gentle stretches will prevent these muscles from getting locked into position – remember to do the stretching gently, the idea is to make the muscles more comfortable not to pull them in the process.

Here are a few simple stretches you can try, always proceed gently and don’t overstretch.

The Levator Scapula is always a nuisance, it runs from the base of your skull to the corner of your shoulder blade. Always try to keep your head in a neutral position, as though it were floating from a balloon. If you feel a burning point of pain between your shoulder blade and spine about mid-way down your shoulder blade try gently dropping your head forward and then stretching it to an angle of approximately 45 degrees first in one direction, holding for a slow minute and then in the other direction. Remember to drop down the shoulder which you are stretching away from. If you move your head slightly more towards your shoulder it will then stretch the Trapezius along the side of your neck too.

To stretch across your upper back , stretch one arm out straight in front of you and with the other arm placed just above its elbow, pull the straight arm gently towards your body until you can feel the stretch behind your shoulder blade. Repeat with the opposite arm. It is essential  that you stretch your chest muscles to relieve the pressure on your back, you can do this whilst you wait for the coffee machine! Just stand in a door frame with your hands placed at chest level on the frame, then just lean your body forwards through the doorway until you feel the stretch on your chest and hold until its your turn at the coffee machine.

I would always advocate regular massage for neck and shoulder pain. It does lots to ease the tension in the upper body. It can sometimes take a little while to reap the benefits, many patients come to me in desperation after conventional medicine has failed to ease their symptoms. Often though, just one treatment will make a significant difference.

Avoid muscle pain in cold weather

Avoid muscle pain in cold weather

Here in Ely the winter is in full swing and we are suffering sub-zero temperatures. Guaranteed to exacerbate muscle pain as I was reminded this week. I always have an increase in patients suffering neck, shoulder and low back and hip pain during the colder months but I didn’t imagine I would be suffering myself .

I have been fighting off the ill effects of a virus and have skipped the gym for the last couple of weeks but, feeling better I attended my early morning dance class earlier this week. It was a cold morning and the studio was less than cosy, I had spent a sedentary weekend searching out xmas gifts online.  My hips were feeling tight and my hamstrings particularly inflexible, a major cause of lower back pain, but I pushed through and stretched out tight, cold muscles. Two days later I have resultantly sore legs, complaining at every movement for being neglected and then thrown coldly back into exercise. In summer this wouldn’t have happened to the same extent, keeping muscles warm is not such an issue. We also spend less time sitting and more outside being active.

The moral of my tale ? Muscles that are kept warm and well exercised are less troublesome in the winter months. Exercise regularly to keep your muscles mobile, wrap up warm to keep heat in the muscles so that they work effectively and only stretch out well warmed up muscles. Don’t forget to get a massage after training, it will keep muscles supple, ease out any muscle pain and make sure muscles are ready for the next session.