I hurt my back last week.
I was doing a Yoga class (yes, that’s what Movement teachers do as downtime!). I’m not blaming the Yoga or the teacher – I just pushed it too much in a particular movement. The thing is, despite teaching clients about their own bodies and back pain all the time, this hadn’t happened to me in such long time that I’d forgotten what my body needed.
In this Blog, find out what I did, what I learnt and some tips for you if you’ve hurt your back.
What did I do when I hurt my back?
After feeling sorry for myself for a few hours, I lay down and wondered what would happen if I used some gentle mindfulness techniques and gentle movement to calm things down. And guess what…it worked! Yes, I know I’m meant to know this. Evidence has shown that movement is one of the most effective things for back pain and, as I said, I teach people this all of the time so I shouldn’t have been surprised!
So, how am I now?
Well, unsurprisingly, things flared up slightly again when I came back home and sat for hours at the laptop and slouched on the sofa. However, I’m writing this using a standing desk (created by putting a seating cube on top of the desk – it’s actually pretty fabulous!). And, I know that the floor or cross-legged on the sofa are better places for me right now than slouched on the sofa (and yes, when they don’t have bad backs Pilates teachers are sometimes allowed to slouch on the sofa!). I’ve also had some great help from a local hands-on practitioner and I know that I need to keep up the movement and mindfulness and things will get better.
However, the cool thing is that I’ve found this experience really useful because:
- it’s another step in understanding my endlessly clever and complicated body…because I hurt my back it’s given me loads of new information about my own body; and
- it’s a humble reminder of how my clients with lower back pain may feel (I say may because our bodies are all different and the way that we experience pain is different for all of us)
Some Top Tips from when I hurt my back
If you’re suffering from lower back pain, here are my top tips for you from what I’ve learnt from hurting my back:
- Trust your body, you know it better than anyone else ever will. Be safe with your movement and don’t force anything. However, back pain can cause fear of movement and loss of specific motor control so you might need some help in re-learning to trust your body.
- Let the nervous system calm down. Pain is created by the brain and a lot of lower back pain is caused by the brain going in to overdrive (the talented Osteopath Gavin Routledge http://www.active-x.co.uk/ can fill you in on the more technical details of this with one of his online courses if you’d like to know more). To do this, use gentle meditation or breathing techniques. For many people, lying with their feet raised or simply knees bent is a great place to start to allow the lower back to relax and widen. Many of us are so busy running around that we feel guilty just lying on our backs, but force yourself to do this for 10 minutes two or three times a day.
- Start to introduce movement slowly within a range that’s comfortable and not painful. Depending on where you’re at, you might not be moving much at all on day 1 or you might manage some gentle Arm Arcs (ie lying on your back and slowly moving your arms through an arc and back again). When you feel up to it, you could then start to use the breath to do some gentle pelvic tilts. What I typically do then is play around with some gentle Lunge type stretches on either side, some Bridging and something on all 4’s (maybe just small movements back and forward or maybe opposite arms and legs if that’s right for you) depending on what feels right for me. The important thing with all of these is to listen to your body and take it at your own pace.
- If things don’t calm down, then you may need some help in movement techniques (with a specialist Pilates teacher) or some hands-on work (with a physio, chiropractor or osteopath). I can often source someone for you wherever you are in the UK, so please do get in touch if you’re looking for a great Pilates/movement teacher or a physio, chiropractor or osteopath.
- Most importantly, if this pain is new or unexplained, then it might be caused by something else so go to see your doctor.
- And finally……… I know from experience that YOU CAN RE-LEARN HOW TO TRUST YOUR BODY so please do make a start and learn to enjoy moving again.