Thursday, 09 August 2012

Putting your back into it…

Back pain can be a part of everyday life, but how best to deal with it? Top physio David Roberts, who has treated some of our sporting heroes, explains

Written by David Roberts
Does physiotherapy have to be strenuous?

No. Many of the exercises that are recommended by physiotherapists are often gentle – although the scale can range from very gentle to very strenuous and anything in between.

Are some people born with a stronger back?

Not necessarily – although some people may well be inherently more muscular or may have the innate capacity to develop their strength and flexibility more than others.

Does walking count as physiotherapy?

No, walking does not count as physiotherapy, it is general aerobic exercise. But brisk walking will increase your heart rate and improve your lung capacity.

How important is standing up straight?

Standing up straight and maintaining a neutral and balanced spine is all part of having a good posture. The spine consists of a series of curves rather than it being a straight rod. Slouching when standing or while walking will counterbalance the neutral spine and potentially lead to future postural problems.

What are our core muscles?

The core muscles, or abdominal muscles, are a group of muscles that span the base of the ribs to the pelvis, running around each side; they combine with the muscles of the back. Deep and superficial layers of muscle form the core.

What do they do?

The core muscles help to stabilise the centre of the body and act in combination with the back muscles to provide support and stability for the spine and pelvis.

Are there exercises for women?

Yes, there are some specific exercises for women, particularly during or after pregnancy. In general though, the male and female core group of muscles are identical.

Should we all join a gym?

No, not necessarily. Any exercise, whether in or out of a gym, can only be good for you. The important thing to remember is to exercise on a regular basis. My theory is: 'It's better to wear out than rust out.'

What kind of chair is best?

The best chair is one that supports a neutral and balanced spine. There are myriad choices.

Do those with a bad back need to sleep on a hard mattress?

A mattress should support a neutral and balanced spine, which doesn't always mean hard is best. It should be firm enough to support the weight of the body without distorting the spine.

Can hunched-over shoulders really be pulled back into line?

Yes. By performing regular strength and flexibility exercises prescribed by a chartered physiotherapist.

What is the best tip you can give someone who wants to avoid back problems?

Perform regular exercises utilising the full range of movement of the spine, including rotation, extension, flexion and side flexion. Always be mindful of your posture and keep your weight in check.

David Roberts runs the largest chain of physiotherapists across the North West. Services include specialist physiotherapists, massage therapists, strength and conditioning coaches, Pilates experts, personal trainers and acupuncturists. David Roberts Physiotherapy: 0161-683 0652,

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