The reality for most people is that we’re now going to be working or staying at home for a while, and most of us will be sat down much more, either at our desk/ table or on the sofa trying to work from home as efficiently and safely as possible. As much as we want you to keep moving, there’s going to be an increased chance of your lumbar spine (lower back), getting stiff and perhaps even a bit achy during the coming days and weeks.
The lumbar spine is made up of 5 large vertebrae at the base of the back. Almost all of your daily movements involve you using this part of your back. Its main movement is flexion (forward bend) but it can also extend (bend backwards) and side-flex (bend to the side). There is also a very small amount of rotation movement. Commonly, the things we do in our everyday movements involve combinations of these movements.
“The lumbar spine is made up of 5 large vertebrae at the base of the back. Almost all of your daily movements involve you using this part of your back.”
Mark Suttie – Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist
Surrounding the lumbar spine, there are many muscles that attach to and control it. Our spinal cord passes through it, containing all the nerves that innervate the lower half of our body. There are also discs that sit between each vertebra, acting as shock absorbers between the bones.
Due to the complex anatomy of the lumbar region, it is a common area where many people experience symptoms. Sitting for long periods, particularly in a home environment, can easily cause stiffness in this region. This can then become painful and/or potentially lead to back problems. As the stiffness builds up, the harder it will be to maintain good posture.
As I’ve already mentioned, our backs generally don’t like to be immobile for too long. The best thing for them is movement.
Movement has several benefits:
- It mobilises the joints in our lower back and gets the spine moving through its full range of movement
- It helps the nutrition of the discs, relieving any sustained pressure on the discs caused by prolonged sitting in a poor posture.
- It stretches out the lower back muscles, allowing us to move more freely and reducing the chances of muscle pain developing
- It gets our nerves sliding and gliding through the low back, the muscles of the gluteal muscles and lower limbs, reducing our chances of developing nerve pain
- It’s great for our circulation, getting blood pumping around the body and helping to pump the fluid back to the heart from our feet
- It also good for the mind and body. Getting up and moving gets the happy hormones flowing.
So, not only should it feel nice and relieving to move, it will also allow you to maintain good posture when you get back to work. It’ll also minimise the risk of you getting all stiff and achy, one of the consequences of sitting all day.
So to help combat the effects of sitting too long and in a poor position, I’ve created a short video series designed to get you up from your chair, stretching out and mobilising your lower backs. I’m calling them the “Lockdown Lumbar Looseners”.
Follow these videos morning and afternoon every day to help reduce the effects of sitting at home. They should only take you 10 minutes and they’re really important in helping reduce spinal stiffness and the development of pain or other symptoms.
These stretches are of course a general guide to improving and maintaining mobility. If you’re experiencing any significant pain and discomfort you should contact your physiotherapist or other health care practitioner for advice. You can also contact us here at Vanbrugh Physiotherapy for more information on how we can help.