Author: Ann Kuan, Senior Private Physiotherapist at Vita Health Group
Our backs have undoubtedly felt the strain of lockdown. From binge watching movies in bed, to sitting at our kitchen tables hunched over our laptops, to an influx in people getting fit. Our bodies, and more specifically our backs, have felt the impact.
Non-specific lower back pain i.e. a pain that is not due to a serious disease and where the exact cause of the pain is unclear, is a complaint that we have observed in our practices a great deal recently. As you might imagine, the causes of this pain are very varied. Saying that, one commonality is that, almost all lower back issues tend to result from an increased volume, intensity and frequency of some form of activity, which, if managed appropriately early on, could have been prevented.
So, just what is causing this pain in our backs?
The new work from home environment has meant that many people have been sitting in less ergonomic positions and for much longer periods of time. With people dropping their daily commute, working through lunch and missing out on those regular photocopier chats at their offices, people have been sedentary for much longer periods.
The other thing we have witnessed is a greater number of people taking up exercise over the lockdown period. Whilst this is, of course, a good thing for both mental and physical health, we have found that many people went from ‘zero to hero’ very quickly. For instance, at the start of lockdown and when many of us were only allowed out once a day, we saw a number of people going from doing very little fitness, to increasing the volume of their workouts fivefold. People who were perhaps used to doing just one run a week, started running every day and for longer distances. And if they weren’t running, they were cycling or walking further. Likewise, those who were self-isolating or restricted on leaving the house, switched from the odd gym session to doing daily online workouts, often at a much higher intensity.
We also witnessed a big boom in people purchasing fitness equipment. So much so in fact, that many of the big providers sold out completely. Unfortunately, in some cases, this resulted in people buying whatever they could for fear of losing out and thus working out with equipment that was perhaps unsuitable for their fitness level. The other issue this caused was a number of people with a great deal of fitness kit, yet without the knowledge on how to use it correctly.
On top of this, with so many people juggling childcare, home-schooling and working from home, trying to squeeze in a workout in such little time was (as you would expect) tricky. As such, we found that many people often scrimped on warm ups, cool downs and stretching – sometimes doing none at all.
And it wasn’t just exercise that people were going overboard with either. DIY and gardening boomed during lockdown, leading to many people bending over weeding for hours on end, trying to reach those difficult places when painting and assuming some very interesting positions to hammer in those nails.
All of the above elements led to a number of issues for Brits’ backs. Put simply, our bodies simply weren’t used to the increased volume, frequency and change in intensity of these activities, and our backs definitely felt the strain.
With a number of regional lockdowns potentially coming down the line, what can we do to ensure we take care for our backs, nip pain in the bud early on, and ensure a small niggle doesn’t become something more. Here are our five tips:
Remember, an active lifestyle really is the key to a healthy body – and of course to a healthy mind too. Just make sure you do things in the right way and don’t increase the volume, intensity and frequency of the activities you do too much or too quickly.