Top tips from a physiotherapist to help you self-manage back pain in lockdown
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), musculoskeletal conditions are incredibly common, with lower back pain being the single leading cause of activity limitation and work absence worldwide*. A common myth with back pain is that resting it will help to prevent further damage and ease the pain, when in fact, the best thing you can do is to keep moving and introduce physio-recommended stretches into your daily routine.
Most musculoskeletal problems will get better within 6-8 weeks with self-management. We spoke to our in-house physio, Ben Searle, for some professional advice from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy on how to self-manage your back pain from home.
Stay active – we can’t stress it enough!
“This is something we physios are constantly telling people. Research shows that bed rest for more than two days can actually make back pain worse, so it’s important to stay moving and stay active. Alongside our recommended exercises (which we go through later in the blog), we recommend activities such as yoga, pilates and walking, all of which can be done from home or during your daily allowance of exercise.”
Use painkillers when necessary to manage the pain
“Don’t continue to suffer if you are in pain. Standard painkillers, such as paracetamol at the recommended dose, may be taken safely if you are in serious discomfort. If you are taking paracetamol regularly, take care to avoid cold or flu remedies as these often also contain paracetamol. Ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory and can also be useful if taken short-term for back pain, however, there are some side effects to be aware of such as heartburn. Ibuprofen is best avoided if you suffer from asthma, regular heartburn, have ever had a stomach ulcer or if you have heart or kidney disease. If in doubt, please contact your community pharmacist for advice. Whilst painkillers are temporary fix, they will help you to continue as normal and ensure you are able to remain active and mobile, which is important when easing your back pain long term.”
Do daily home stretches and exercises
“Here are some exercises you can do at home that should help to alleviate your back pain. Try to incorporate them into your daily routine for the best results and remember to continue doing them even if your back pain eases.”
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head (as if you’re sunbathing). Slowly roll your knees to one side, whilst keeping your feet on the floor, hold for 10 seconds, then do the same on the other side. Repeat three times.
Start in a kneeling position, with one foot out in front. Place your hands on the front knee, then lift the back knee so you are in a lunging position, then hold for 5 seconds. Repeat three times on each side.
One-leg stand against wall
Start by facing a wall with one hand against it. Bend your opposite leg up behind you and hold in place with your free hand. Hold this move for five seconds then switch legs. Repeat the exercise three times on each leg.
Lie down on your back with your arms by your sides, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your stomach muscles so that your back is pushed into the floor, removing the arch between your back and the floor. Hold this for 5 seconds and then repeat five times.
Knees to chest
Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold one knee, pulling it up to your chest and hold for five seconds. Repeat five times on each knee.
Arching and hollowing
Go onto your hands and knees, making sure your hands are directly underneath your shoulders. Arch your back upwards, letting your head drop down and hold for five seconds, then slowly lift your head up whilst letting your stomach drop towards the floor and again hold for five seconds. Repeat this sequence five times.
To see accompanying images for these exercises, use the following resources:
When to seek professional advice about your back
Whilst most backpain can be self-managed from home, there are instances in which you might need to see a GP or physiotherapist. We recommend seeking help if you experience any of the following:
- Worsening backpain, despite following self-management advice for 6-8 weeks.
- If your backpain is accompanied by feelings of being unwell, such as a fever, night sweats or unexpected weight loss.
- If you develop a hot and swollen joint unexpectedly.
- If your ability to walk changes, you have problems with your balance, or experience weakness or heaviness in your legs.
- If the pain worsens at night and you are unable to lie flat, causing you to lose sleep.
- Early morning stiffness lasting longer than half an hour.