By Kathlyn Hossack
Back pain is the worst. And it’s fairly common among riders. A medical study out of the United Kingdom suggests most equestrians suffer from back pain of some variety. That’s a lot of us. Back pain can stem from a number of things, including but not limited to poor posture, muscle weaknesses and misuse, saddle type, or trauma related to falls.
Sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above.
So, what do you do when you experience that pain that causes the back complaints?If you’ve fallen or had an incident that results in new back pain, the first thing you should do is see a licensed musculoskeletal professional (athletic therapist, sport medicine doctor or orthopedic doctor, physiotherapist, etc.) to check you out and make sure you get on the right track to recovery.
Ice is usually recommended for the first few days, and then heat therapy. Gentle movement can come next when you feel ready to do so (walking is the best remedy for back pain, but your body will tell you when it’s ready to proceed) followed by a more prescribed plan from your healthcare professional.
If you have a history of back pain that comes back like the grinch, then follow these few tips to get yourself moving and feeling better.
I use this exercise a lot. That just adds to the proof that is one of the most beneficial ones for us all to be doing. Keeping your back flat against the wall (it helps to have the feet in front of you just a bit so you can tilt that pelvis back), bring your arms to the wall as well (or in front of you at 90 degrees), slowly slide up and down while keeping your back against the wall.
Do this in sets of 10 to 15, as many times as you’d like through the day. Not only does this strengthen the upper postural muscles, it stretches the lower back and maintains an optimal spine posture.
This works the core while keeping the spine neutral. Keep yourself in a curled position (with your chest/shoulders off the ground) while moving one arm towards the opposite extending leg – extending as close to straight as you can, but keeping the knee bent and slowly, with control, tapping the foot to the ground is acceptable too – alternating sides. Perform this for one minute continuously or for three sets of 20 repetitions.
This video shows how to do it.
Only pursue this if it feels right for your body. It’s a lovely mobilization tool for the lower back and a good stretch for the hips. From the position below, rotate up with an inhale, and then twist over to the opposite side with an exhale!
This video shows how to do it.
Water is so important. If you have any sort of chronic pain anywhere, increasing hydration will benefit you. The eight glasses a day rule isn’t that far off, but I know for myself I feel my best when I go through three-ish liters a day. Yes, it takes some getting used to. But adding lemon or infusing fruits and herbs in the water can help. Tea counts too!
This is possibly the best thing for low back pain. Brisk walking either outdoors or on a treadmill, with arms swinging naturally, and keeping the core active. Try 10-20 minutes a few times a day and feel the difference it makes.
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Kathlyn Hossack is a Certified Athletic Therapist and Kinesiologist from Winnipeg, Manitoba dedicated to helping riders improve their movement.