7 Tips Reduce Back Pain

7 Tips Reduce Back Pain

Reduce pain with good computer posture!

Ergonomics Video

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is concerned with human anatomical, anthropometric, physiological and biomechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity.  The relevant topics include working postures, materials handling, repetitive movements, work-related musculoskeletal disorders, workplace layout, safety and health.  .

The above video is a really good example of working postures when using a laptop.  Knowing that a number of not only adult patients but students are now using laptops on a daily basis I hope this little video link proves useful to help you avoid some pain.  If you have any specific questions, as always please don’t hesitate to speak with your treating Osteopath.

Poor Desk Posture? – Dr Stuart’s favourite corrective exercise.

Poor Desk Posture? – Dr Stuart’s favourite corrective exercise.

The Prone Cobra.

Many patients ask: 

“What exercises could I perform to assist or improve my posture?  We asked Dr Stuart Robbins (Osteopath) this question.

His Answer:

Whilst there are many, and that they usually need to be individualised to the patient’s specific needs, one of the more effective exercises I’ll often prescribe is The Prone Cobra.

I find the prone cobra, when performed in concert with a chest stretching routine, can have remarkable impact on improving patients posture.  Furthermore I personally perform this exercise for about 3 minutes in total every second day and have done for many years now.

It aims to reduce both thoracic kyphosis (rounded shoulders) and anterior (forward) head carriage, both of which I often see in patients suffering neck and shoulder tension and/or headaches.

The Prone Cobra when performed as I describe is not a stretch, but it is a strengthening exercise that focuses on postural muscles of the back and neck.  These postural muscles require endurance to cope with the demands of both gravity and occupational or recreational postural demands.  I find that it is especially relevant for many desk workers, students, breast-feeding mothers or even hands on fathers.

From the outset I want to say that performing this or any other exercise or routine aimed at improving your posture is almost a waste of time if you are still going to sit slumped at your desk.  For this reason I remind patients to address their ergonomics first; whilst I’m not going to go into ergonomics at length here I often refer patients to simple videos I feel tell the story on ergonomics quite well, I’ve included one here in the hope it also helps.


* Warning * If you have any specific concerns regarding your suitability to perform this or any other exercise please discuss it with your treating Osteopath in your next consultation.

1.  Gently squeeze your bottom to assist in stabilising your pelvis and low back.

2.  Slowly extend through your mid to upper back, lifting your head off the ground, keeping a neutral neck (keep your eyes down – you shouldn’t look around the room whilst performing this exercise and should have your nose approximately an iPhone width from the ground).

3.  Initially turn your palms towards the ground and then slowly away from yourself aiming your thumbs towards the sky.

Hold this final position for 5 – 30 seconds, you’ll likely feel muscles working between the shoulder blades and often at the back of your arms in your triceps.

Perform 3 – 6 times with 3-10 seconds break between sets.

* The frequency with which you’ll perform this exercise will depend upon the other demands of your life, but aiming for 6 x 30 seconds every couple of days will put you in good stead to cope with the demands of a desk based occupation.

4.  There are a number of variations and progressions with this exercise including changing the arm positions to represent letters – W’s, T’s, Y’s, L’s, and the use of resistance, all of which can be discussed with your treating practitioner.

How to roll your ITB (Iliotibial band)

How to roll your ITB (Iliotibial band)

This article is not going to cover if you should or shouldn’t be using a foam roller to release your ITB as this is a clinical decision that should be made by your Osteopath or other practitioner based on your presentation and a range of factors.

This article is designed as a reminder to aid patients whom have been prescribed this exercise as part of their management plan.

* Cautionary note: When using a foam roller to release your ITB in this manner it can put stresses through the lower torso, specifically the low back and if you have a weakness or an existing injury in this region this may not be suitable for you.  To assist with this it can be beneficial to maintain a mild contraction through the lower abdomen to assist in protecting your back.

  1. Lay on your side with the roller placed on the under side of your thigh positioned somewhat perpendicular to your body.
  2. Using the elbow and forearm of the arm closest to the ground to support your upper body and the outside part of the leg closest to the ground to support your lower body.
  3. Trying to keep your body as neutral as possible – that is in a straight line.
  4. Use your limbs closest to the ceiling to moderate the pressure with which the roller pushes into your thigh.
  5. The “rolling” component of this activity refers more to gaining position than actually rolling.  From our experience you get the best release in the tissues by pausing at tender points and allowing the tissue to soften rather than rolling over it repetitively.
  6. You may need to pause on a tender spot and wait for the tissue in your thigh to release.  This can take longer than a minute sometimes.
  7. When performing this exercise it is common to experience a level of discomfort however overt pain should always be avoided.
  8. Be careful not to over do it, pushing harder can lead to extreme discomfort, therefore leading to increased tension and the whole process becoming counter productive.
  9. Perform this exercise for the frequency and duration as advised by your Osteopath or Pilates Instructor.

Authors thoughts on using foam rollers in general and for ITB release.

We use foam rollers and other devices for self massage (self myofascial release).  By applying pressure to tender areas of your body you can achieve decreased tissue tension.  This enables muscles to return to their normal length and function.  By using a process of self massage your muscles will be healthier, more elastic and ready to perform.

As a practitioner the idealist in me thinks that if a patient is performing a well balanced exercise program, then they may not actually need to use a roller at all.  This said, most of us (myself included) are often squeezing some type of exercise into an already busy lifestyle.   I feel the foam roller is a great tool to assist people in performing some self body maintenance exercises.  The popularity of foam rollers is a result of their effectiveness to help so many people both resolve pain and keep doing the types of exercise they enjoy.

Why do many of us need to release our ITB’s in the first place?

Foam rolling for your tight Iliotibial Bands (ITB’s) may provide somewhat symptomatic relief for a number of conditions.  Clinically I often see one iliotibial band much tighter than the other, and this is commonly accompanied by a muscular imbalance in the glutes, quadriceps, or even chronic ankle instability. Furthermore, using a roller should be accompanied by joint assessment and treatment including soft tissue therapy, joint manipulation and possibly some corrective exercises.

Tight ITB’s may also be a reflection of poor technique in a regularly performed exercise for example a squat or a lunge, or simply overtraining and not programming adequate rest periods.

Whilst tightness in this region seems to be something I see in people from all walks of life it definitely is something that I see a lot of in the very active, aspiring athletes and professional athletes.  I don’t necessarily believe these people have any worse biomechanical faults compared with asymptomatic people more so that they push themselves to a level where their biomechanical faults and muscular imbalances are more overt.

Written by Dr Stuart Robbins (Osteopath)

* Foam Rollers are available at our clinic ask at reception.