Back Pain, the idiots guide.

First and foremost I must stress that the idiot in the title is yours truly and the contents within the article are purely my own observations from my own experiences and are in no way those of a medical professional. If you do suffer from back issues then the first place of call should always be your doctor.

Back pain seems to be the bane of society. After suffering myself in various ways I’ve learnt through trial and error, medical advice and good old research that the following suggestions help me significantly with my own problems. With my own problems I’ve found that a considerable amount of it stems from two main areas.

1. Flexibility

2. Strength

Poor foot strength and ankle flexibility has reeked havoc on the whole of my lower limb bio-mechanics. As time has gone on its been noticed that my feet had started to stick out more when walking and stood straight. Walking more on the outer edges of my footwear had become more prominent. There were a number of reasons for these changes with the two main ones being a lack of foot and ankle strength and flexibility.  The foot strength was causing the arches to collapse and a lack of flexibility was in effect making my knees roll inwards which was then pulling my hips inwards as well.

Without getting into the medical side of things the main things that have helped with rectifying some of these problems have been to build up my foot strength through some very simple exercises.

Writing the alphabet in the air with each foot. Do one to three sets per foot.

Scrunching and uncurling the toes. Repeat for 25 to 50 repetitions. Once that becomes easy I then switch to towel curls on the floor. Lay a towel on the floor, stand on it with bare feet and doing the above scrunching of the toes try pull the far edge of the towel towards your toes. One to 3 sets for each foot is ample.

Toe spreads. So simple yet has helped with balance and the roll of the foot. As per the name you simple stretch your toes out so that they all separate and then return to normal. Once you’ve gotten used to that you can add a small amount of resistance via an elastic band placed around the toes and try to stretch the band as far as is comfortable. 10-20 repetitions per foot.

Walking around the house barefoot as much as possible. This was the first thing my doctor  recommended so that my feet could build back up their strength naturally as nature intended. Because lets face it we’re not meant to walk around on overly cushioned footwear which does the job our foot muscles are supposed to do.

Standing calf stretch. Using a step rise up onto your toes with both feet then lower slowly on just one foot to attain the stretch and hold that for a count of twenty. Repeat the same action two more times and switch sides. Once you can comfortably do it for a twenty count increase that to 30 for 5 repetitions.

Seated calf stretch. Sit down and cross your leg over your knee so that you can gently pull back on your toes to help stretch the plantar fascia that runs on the underneath of your foot. Pull back, hold for a ten count and repeat for a total of five to ten repetitions on each foot.

Foot rolling. Get a golf ball and place it underneath your barefoot, slowly applying gentle pressure whilst rolling the ball around the whole of your sole searching for sore / tender spots. Once you find one of these spend a ten to twenty seconds just working that spot with a little more pressure to help soften it up. 3-5 minutes per foot is ample.

The above I’ve found done 3-5 times per week, except the barefoot walking which is now part of everyday home life, has slowly but surely helped to increase foot strength and ankle flexibility so reducing the incidences of back ache and my running abilities. The trouble with back pain is that most people will just look at the area of the pain rather than what could be causing the pain to show itself in that specific place. With my own aches and pains I found that its better to work from the foundations of the body, in this case the feet, and work up from there. In an ever evolving society where making life easier is the name of the game we sometimes forget our roots and what thousands of years of evolution had intended us to do. One of those things is not to spend a vast majority of our time sitting in front of a desk at work. Sitting in a car, bus or train too and from work. Then sitting in front of a television screen for hours on end playing consoles of watching television.

We evolved to move because if we sat we got eaten. So move as evolution intended and save yourself the chance of getting that dreaded backache.

Steven A Barlow, Co founder and founder of Spartan Runners “because we don’t just run” © 2012


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