Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Back pain in women

1 in 6 Australians report having back problems, and 4 out of 5 experience it sometime in their life. While both men and women report that they experience back problems, it is a symptom of pelvic dysfunction and should be checked out by a women’s health physio: Pain, especially chronic pain, is more closely associated with emotion, particularly stress, than it is injury. Women are generally still taking the lion’s share of the work at home, more often than not also juggling a job, and as such are often more stressed than their partners. Mothers in particular are susceptable to both the pelvic dysfunction AND stressful life, and need particular care looking after their back health.

So, you’ve “done” your back (usually changing the bed sheets!) – this is called “acute” pain. It’s sudden, sharp, and you’re panicked. If this happens to you, do your pelvic floor exercises (because they have an analgesic effect on back pain), and down regulate nervous system (which means to make it calmer – because perception and thoughts can make it worse). Get in with a physio asap – preferably a women’s health physio who will look at your pelvis as well as your back.

Here are some ideas to relax your nervous system while you wait for your physio appointment:

  • Lying kegal, feet on PP
  • Lower back massage – lying and sitting

I demonstrate here:

If you haven’t “done” your back, but it is simply sore, there is still stuff you can do to feel better. However for the record… At no point am I recommending NOT going to see a doctor or physio. These tips are alongside what you would normally do when your back is sore, these are things I would do with someone who showed up to training with a sore back. If you’d like to be extra safe, you can also ask your physio or doctor for clearance before trying these ideas.

There is limited evidence that Whole Body Vibration relieves non-specific low back pain (that is low back pain without an obvious injury) more than traditional methods of training like stability training, classic physiotherapy, and routine daily activities (ie. ignoring it and carrying on). It should be something you should try if you have recurring pain – and as I said before, check with your doctor or physio if you want to be sure.

If you were my client, and came to my session with a sore back, then I would make sure you keep moving, but refrain from stretching, or making your nerves angry (especially if you have sciatica or something like it). Some nice movements include:

  • Reaching across your body
  • Vertical up down dog
  • Ballet stretching

Within pain free range – again no stretching, forcing, pulling, releasing! I demonstrate these here:

If your back pain is chronic, and you’ve tried everything only to be diagnosed with non-specific low back pain, then you need to address stress.

There’s a great pain program run by a group of doctors in the US called curable, , that can get you started. They focus a lot on education, meditation, and journaling to manage lifestyle stress. Again, you can use the Power Plate to enhance your meditation, simply find your most comfortable position (for me it’s lying flat with my calves on the plate) and focus on the sensations of vibration.

There is also good research that shows lifting can reduce back pain and prevent recurrent back pain, but it can also flare you up, so once again seek guidance before starting. You also need to gradually increase what you’re able to lift, don’t start with 10kg right away – start with 1kg… Our mums groups on a Monday have been working on safe lifting, as well as our 1on1 clients who always lift!

Long term, the idea is that you lift heavy when your pain isn’t bad, you back off to movement when it’s sore, and you come back again when the pain is reduced – and all the grey layers in between are lighter weights/more movement. For example:

  • Dead lift (no pain)
  • Band dislocations (with pain)
  • Light weights dead lift and stretch (slight pain)

I demonstrate these here:

For some women, this will settle in to a predictable pattern with her menstrual cycle – lifting hard and heavy in her first two weeks, tapering down to nourishing movement through the last two weeks, and resting at some point in between… for others, you’ll literally have to “listen to your body” and just do what you can on any given day.

Preventing back pain is about the perfect balance of mobility, stability, strength, and lifestyle – an imbalance in any one of these things is possible to cause back pain. For this reason, if you’ve seen a physio, try a chiro next. If you’ve tried a chiro, try a myotherapist. If you’ve tried a myotherapist, try a GP, and so on, including personal trainers and exercise physiologists.

If you live with chronic back pain then you also have to be leery of getting stiff and less mobile, a regular stretching/mobility/aerobic program is recommended to mitigate this. Movement will not only lubricate your joints, but deliver nutrients, remove waste, and maintain mobility.

Our best recommendations with your power plate include:

  • Walking
  • Toy soldiers
  • Lat stretch
  • Jesus stretch
  • Swinging arms around body
  • Jane Fonda side lunge with arm overhead reach

I demonstrate each of these here:

Good luck with your recovery journey! There are heaps of opportunities out there to turn your pain around, so seek help from a variety of professionals across a variety of professions.

Clare Hozack is an ex-athlete and owner and founder of IntoYou. Clare is currently a strength and conditioning coach, using her skills to return women to functionality after having kids, and providing education for personal trainers in how to train women better