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  • Writer's picturekmbleekman

5 Tips to Reduce Your Lower Back Pain

Equestrians can experience back pain for various different reasons, every rider is different & dependent on how you spend your days; walking, seated, riding, moving or not, previous injuries, your activity, level and lifestyle these will all have an impact on whether or not you suffer from backpain & ultimately how bad or painful it is.

As we get older, we do become more aware of feeling stiffer as our joints and muscles lose their flexibility & become stiffer as we age, and in order to avoid or reduce back pain it’s really important to be aware of what may be causing your stiffness or soreness in the 1st place.

For most of us at some time or another, we’ve probably experienced our own kind of back pain! So many riders just put up with the pain and get to the point where they think it’s never going to change, but there are definitely lots of things you can do to reduce your back pain & start to get yourself feeling better & in less pain! I'm a huge believer that NO RIDER should just put up with being in pain! That's unacceptable & there is lots you can do to help yourself.

Obviously, this is different person to person and these are general guidelines to follow but if you’re a full-time rider say riding 6-9 horses a day versus someone who is very sedentary, spending the majority of the day in front of the laptop the advice is going to be different for you. If you experience lower back pain, my first port of call would be to see a physio/osteopath/chiropractor who can hopefully help you to identify the reason why you’re struggling with back pain. Once you know the problem it’s far easier to treat with the right solution!

My next step would be to increase your daily movement. The more sedentary your lifestyle is the more likely you are going to suffer from pain. The body is designed to move, and when you are sat, seated all the time you’re in a very closed, fixed position, which then causes the hip flexors, abdominals, and chest muscles to all become very tight and shortened, which then causes the pelvis to be put in a compromised position, which in turn means that the muscle on the back of the body become weakened and lengthened due to the front being tight, and this can lead to lower back pain in time.

If you are very sedentary, then literally just moving a bit more or being aware of getting up every hour or two hours and doing a few more steps will go a long way.

Adding in mobility is really important too and focusing on your thoracic, mobility and shoulder mobility is really important to help reduce back pain. The lower back/lumbar spine is designed to be stable, but if there is limited mobility through the thoracic region when it should have the mobility to flex, extend & rotate your body will try to compensate by creating movement from another area of the spine.

So if your thoracic mobility is poor or limited your lower back will end up trying to move too much to compensate & create movement and therefore the lumbar spine is now no longer stable as it should be and you’ll be more inclined to feel back pain.

When the thoracic spine has limited movement we can often end up overextending through the lower back as well, especially when we’re doing things like reaching up, putting on our saddle or trying to do an overhead pressing exercise so increasing your thoracic mobility should be your next port of call when it comes to looking at improving your mobility. By working on your mobility you can change alot physically!

One reason, many riders can get back pain is due to carrying too much body weight. If you think about your horse, the same principle applies, if you overload the muscular and skeletal structure, it’s going to get to a point where the structure breaks down, due to carrying excessive weight.

If your horse was constantly carrying saying an extra 25-50 kg think about the toll that’s going to have on his body and joints and the same applies to you. If you are carrying more weight than you should be this puts more stress on the spine and the spine is forced to carry more weight than it is designed to which in time is going to give you pain. If you’re trying to ride or exercise without being at a healthy or sensible weight you’re going to have problems especially when you then create more movement riding or exercising, which is going to put more impact through your joints and therefore make you more susceptible to suffering from injury or pain as you’re forcing your body to work with more load. Often a prime reason that riders suffer from back pain is due to being overweight, so it should seriously be considered if back pain is something you’re struggling with or have done in the past.

As I mentioned earlier for most Equestrians mainly due to the fact alot of our time is spent seated whether that's in the car, lorry, at your desk or on your horse we tend to be tight in the muscles on the front of our body & typically the muscles on the back of our body, our posterior chain are very weak. Your centre of movement in the saddle is your seat & that means your glute muscles are going to be doing the majority of the work to generate & create movement. Therefore you need to have strong glute muscles & strong & flexible hamstrings to make sure that the glutes & legs can generate movement as they’re designed to without trying to recruit the lower back for movement to help compensate for a lack of strength.

Back pain can often be down to having weak muscles so this should be considered if you’re struggling! Once you've focused on your mobility adding in some strength work will go a really long way. Start with basic hip dominant exercises such as bridges, thrusts, hinges then add in plenty of hip accessory work that gets the glutes & hips moving through their full ranges of movements such as clamshells (abduction), donkey kicks (extension), banded adductions (adduction) to really take your glute strength to the next level! If you’re new to training or haven’t trained in a while then beginning with bands & bodyweight is plenty to get you started!

Water intake is something that in relation to back pain most of you will probably think, "uh what on earth does me not drinking enough water have to do with back & joint pain?” A large part of the spinal cord is made up of water & the spinal cord's job is to act as a shock absorber. When you then become dehydrated the vertebrae discs are unable to act as they are designed to do as the lack of water means they no longer have the spongy texture they should have between the discs, which is largely made up of water & therefore there is nothing to cushion your movement. Then this can cause pain whether you’re exercising, riding or day to day. When you ride think about rising trot, you’re going up & down putting alot of pressure through the lower back so if your discs aren’t as spongy as they should be you’re going to feel that force alot more! Ouch.

If areas of your body aren’t as mobile as they are designed to be then your body will try to create movement from elsewhere but all of these points should be considered as well as being aware that often our lifestyle & daily behaviours have the biggest effect! Hopefully by focusing on these areas over time that will help you to reduce soreness & pain.

Good luck & I hope this was useful


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