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Backaches: where they come from and how to deal with them

Feb 19,2018 - Last updated at Feb 19,2018

Photo courtesy of Family Flavours magazine

By Marian Podoleanu,

Health & Fitness Educator

Backaches are more familiar these days than the common cold. If your job or lifestyle has you stuck sitting for long periods, you probably know all about back pain!

During the simple act of sitting down and standing up, our glutes (the muscles that make up the buttocks) do the job and extend our hip joints. However, as we sit on this muscle for long periods of time, it gets drained of blood and energy. Therefore, when required to perform, it does not do a good job any longer. As a result, the body compensates with smaller muscles and recruits the hamstrings and back extensors to stand and sit. These muscles are built to assist the glutes rather than take over the load as main force producing muscles. This alteration in their function generates tension in the pelvic region and with it the aches people complain about, as the anchor points for the hamstrings and back extensors muscles are in proximity of the sacral region, at the bottom of the spine. To prevent this imbalance, we must prevent the glutes from becoming weak while also strengthening and lengthening the hamstrings and back extensors.


Tips to prevent weakening glutes


1. Walk for 15 minutes every hour. Consider it your thinking break at the office, as it also supplies your body and brain with much-needed oxygen and nutrients.

2. Hydrate. When hydrated, circulation is more efficient and the blood (in its thinnest, most fluid form) reaches the finer blood vessels in the body.

3. Strengthen the glutes with hip bridges (see photo). Perform three to five sets of 15 to 20 repetitions each at a slow pace.

4. Practise a proper squatting technique (see illustration). Perform three to five sets of 15 to 20 repetitions with just the body weight at a slow pace. Use a chair for assistance.

5. Stretch the hips (see illustration). Once you feel tension through the stretch, breathe calmly and hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds on each side.


Back to basics


Three muscular structures and one joint are at play in the common backache: 

• The extensors of the spine: muscles that we use when we straighten our backs.

• The glutes, or buttocks muscles: these are large muscles that activate when we stand and extend the thigh at the pelvis.

• The hamstrings muscles: the posterior thigh muscles that also extend the thigh at the pelvis and flex the knee

• The hip joint: the joint of the pelvis and femur or thigh bone.


Getting backup


If you feel pain in the body, you must acknowledge that there may be one or multiple causes at work. Seeking the advice of professionals early will help clarify the cause and needed treatment. Make sure that, during your meeting with a professional, you uncover the event or series of events that led to the pain. It might be the way you sit in your chair, how you sleep or other habits. Be proactive and get expert input early on to prevent the pain from increasing or spreading to other areas. Early treatment will accelerate recovery and get you back on track to enjoy life fully! 


Reprinted with permission from Family Flavours

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