5 possibilities why your back is hurting and exercises that can help symptoms

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Back pain can happen to every single person and symptoms can vary widely, ranging from intense, shooting or pinching pain to a dull, ongoing ache. 

The spine, which is also called the backbone or spinal column, is one of the strongest parts of the body and is made up of 24 bones sitting on top of each other known as vertebrae. These bones have discs in between and lots of strong ligaments and muscles around them for support. Nearly every movement you make involves your back in some manner. This constant movement means that your back is often prone to strain and injury.

Most pain symptoms will go away again after about 6 – 8 weeks. It is important, if you are able, to keep active and carry on with your everyday activities. If you combine this with a good self-care programme and appropriate rest periods, you will soon start to feel better again.

Often back pain doesn’t have one simple cause or reason but if you are unsure why your back is hurting and what is happening to you, we’ve got five possibilities:

  • Poor posture – if you want to avoid back pain you need to sit and stand correctly. From the way you curl up on your sofa to the way you slouch when you stand, you need to work on your posture if you want to reduce the pain in your back. Stretching your body properly will help you to work your muscles and strengthen the support around your spine.
  • Muscle strain – an existing muscle injury will need the correct rest and help with pain management. Strains feel like a sudden stabbing, pain. This pain worsens when you contract the muscle or twist. Redness, swelling and bruising can occur. The pain can be intense and significantly affect daily activities.
  • You’re exercising incorrectly – did you know that your gym session could be a problem for your back.? When you’re running on the treadmill, you need to ensure your feet are hitting the ground in the right way and you should also be wearing the right shoes. Your movement has to be initiated from your hips rather than your feet. Adjusting your feet will also help.
  • Issues with your shoulders – your spine supports a whole range of nerves, muscles and bones in your body and you could be dealing with referred back pain because of issues with your shoulders. You should be able to keep your shoulders moving properly and if not, then this lack of mobility can affect your back.
  • Is your furniture a pain in the back? – your chair, the sofa, your mattress,  these all need to be right for your back and will make a big difference as to whether you suffer with pain or not. Your office chair should have good lumbar support and your desk and computer monitor should be at the correct height, especially if you are spending long periods of time sitting in an office. Just as important is replacing your bed mattress regularly as a very soft and unsupportive bed will not allow your spine to rest and recover overnight.

These simple exercises can help ease back pain:

  • Knee Rolls -The knee roll stretch is an excellent gentle stretch for your lower back because it improves movement and relieves tight muscles and tension in your lower back and hips. Doing this stretch on a hard floor will be uncomfortable for your back so use something like a yoga mat or carpeted floor. Make sure the surface isn’t too soft, like your bed, as your body will not get the full benefit of the stretch. Lie down on your back, with your knees pointing up to the ceiling and your feet flat on the floor. Roll the knees from side to side, holding for 2 seconds each side. Repeat 5 times on each side, twice a day.
  • Pelvic Tilts – Pelvic tilts are a great way to both gently stretch your lower back and to strengthen your abdominal muscles. Strengthening your abdominal muscles while stretching your back can help to improve your posture and will also help reduce the likelihood of developing back injuries. Lie flat on your back, bring your knees up pointing to the ceiling with your feet flat on the ground. Place both hands on your hips and tilt your hips towards the floor until your back is flat into the floor, without lifting your bottom. Hold for 2 seconds and tilt in the opposite direction. 
  • Knee Hug – Knee to chest stretches are a great way to stretch your thigh and gluteal muscles. Stretching these muscles can help relieve some of the tension in your lower back that causes pain. Again doing this stretch on a hard floor will be uncomfortable for your back so use something like a yoga mat or carpeted floor. Lie on the floor with your feet flat on the ground and your knees pointing to the ceiling. Bring one knee up towards your chest and hug your knee into your chest. Hold for a few seconds then repeat with the other leg. Repeat throughout the day as necessary.

You may feel some discomfort when you first exercise. This feeling is normal and should calm down when you finish. If you experience pain when exercising, then you should stop or change the type of exercise you are doing. Exercise itself shouldn’t be painful and it will help reduce pain and manage your back condition better.

However, you should see your GP if:

  • Your pain is constant or intense, especially at night or when you lie down
  • The pain spreads down one or both legs
  • You have weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both legs
  • You develop a fever, swelling or redness on your back
  • You have unintended weight loss
  • You develop new bowel or bladder control problems
  • The pain doesn’t go away after 6 weeks