Sleepless Nights

Back pain – the chain of command

Georgie Mai Clinic Director

Georgie Mai
Clinic Director & Lead Sports Therapist

Understand the causes of back pain and what you can do to improve your spine’s strength and function, allowing you to enjoy better movement and restful sleep, with our free comprehensive resources and hands-on help from supportive physical therapists in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire.

Your spine is the pillar that supports your body, it allows you to walk, stand and sit, as well as touch and feel – because it forms the canal connecting the nerves from your body and limbs, to your brain. While your heart may be the vital organ that keeps you alive, without your spine you wouldn’t be able to move. 

There are three natural curves in your spine that give it an “S” shape when viewed from the side. These curves help the spine withstand great amounts of stress by distributing your body weight. Between the bony vertebra are spongy discs that act as shock absorbers. The lumbar spine (or lower back) connects the thoracic spine to the pelvis, and bears the bulk of your body’s weight.

Your spine is not rigid though. It allows movement through the intervertebral joints connecting the bony vertebra. These joints allow you to twist, to bend forward and backward, and from side to side. Large groups of muscles surrounding the spine, pelvis, hips and upper body all interact to allow for movements like walking, running, jumping, and swimming.

However, there are also muscles deep in your body that work constantly just to maintain your posture when you’re sitting and standing. It is essential that all elements of the spinal ‘chain’ work harmoniously together to ensure fluid movement without overloading structures resulting in injury and pain.

Any link in the chain that becomes ‘stuck’ will not only affect that spinal level but also the movement and strength of the chain above and below it. If the muscles around the spine are uneven in strength and length (flexibility) this too can affect the ‘chain’, altering the alignment and motion of the links.

Taking care of your spine now will help you lower the chances of experiencing back pain later. Many of the steps you can take to improve the overall health of your spine involve nothing more than practicing better body mechanics (or how you move and hold yourself), when you do daily tasks and activities.

Taking care of your spine

Pay attention to early warning signs or pain. Although back pain is very common and nearly every person will experience at least one episode of back pain in a lifetime, it is essential to address any symptoms promptly.

It has also been shown in studies that early treatment and rehabilitation can prevent recurrent bouts of back pain and prevent the development of chronic lower back pain which can be very debilitating, stressful and depressing. It can affect your ability to work, play sport, socialise and sleep, all of which can further compound your pain cycle. 

Your back pain could be due to inflamed ligaments, damaged intervertebral discs, nerve irritation, bony formations on the spine, muscle imbalances such as weakness or a lack of flexibility, leg length differences, or muscle strains, to name just a few. Even the way we move (or don’t move) at work, school or sport can all be an underlying cause to the current pain.

How physical therapy can prevent and improve back pain

The pain stiffness experienced from back pain can be improved with hands-on techniques such as sports massage, spinal manipulation, skeletal mobilisation, acupuncture and other modalities.

However, doing that alone is no cure, it is important that you work through a rehabilitation programme (specific exercises) to correct underlying muscle weaknesses, flexibility issues, and the sequence in which the muscles around your spine work to provide stability and facilitate correct movement patterns.  It’s our job to help you with that – we can also give you advice on correcting posture / technique for work and sport.

‘Maintenance’ is also important.  Just like you take good care of your car or bicycle, it’s important to learn what ‘your’ maintenance work may be – regular massage for example, taking regular breaks at work, strength work to continually encourage muscle development, and appropriate exercise classes just for example.

Back pain and sleep issues

One of the most common issues that sufferers of back pain experience is sleep disruption, so we have put together an interactive Back Pain and Sleep Guide to help you banish those sleepless nights and wake up feeling refreshed.

The guide includes:

Please don’t hesitate to be in touch if you need our hands-on help and advice. We’re here to support you!


Disclaimer: This information is intended as general guidance and information only and should not be relied upon as a basis for planning individual medical care or as a substitute for specialist medical advice in each individual case.

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