Medical – looking after your back

Medical Back Feature Image

As motorcyclists, we can be susceptible to back pain. Here, Suzie Bostock explains how to look after your back to minimise the risks.

Our back is quite a strong and resilient structure that can put up with a lot, but it’s still worth looking after it, especially when you ride a lot.

As motorcyclists, we can have ‘trauma’ if we fall off hard, we can over-exert by lifting heavy bags on/off our bikes, lifting bikes up, pulling them out of mud etc. We’re also susceptible to all of the injuries associated with bad or sustained posture, especially if you spend a long time on the bike, have a lot of vibration through the bike, don’t stop very often and then work on a computer etc. It all has a huge impact on our backs, even if it’s not noticeable in the short term.

Core stability exercises and general back mobility exercises can help with lower back pain, so exercise programmes such as tai chi, yoga, and pilates are good. It’s not the answer to everything, but it really can help. If you see a physiotherapist, some manual therapy may help, alongside a tailored exercise programme (NICE guidelines).

Common Back Pain Myths

Myth 1: Moving will make my back pain worse.
Myth 2: I should avoid exercise, especially weight training.
Myth 3: A scan will show me exactly what is wrong.
Myth 4: Pain equals damage.
Source: Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

Exercises

Here are some easy back exercises that don’t require any specialist equipment. Do them regularly. If you suffer from severe back pain or have additional symptoms (pins and needles, numbness etc.) seek a professional assessment before starting new exercises.

1 – KNEE HUGS

Knee_Hug

Lie on your back. For each option, hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times each side:

  • Option 1: Pull one knee into your chest at a time and hold.
  • Option 2: Pull both knees to your chest.

2 – CAT STRETCH

Cat_Stretch

Get onto all fours. Arch your back up and tilt your head down, hold for five seconds, and then lower back down and arch it the opposite way and tilt your head up, hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.

3 – CHILD’S POSE

Childs_Pose

Get onto all fours. Slowly sit back on your heels and let your hands slide forwards. Hold 20-30 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times.

4 – BACK ROTATIONS

Back_rotation

Lay on your back with your knees bent up, feet flat on the floor. Let your knees slowly roll to one side and hold for five seconds. Then roll them to the other side and hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.

5 – PELVIC TILTS

Pelvic_Tilt

Lay on your back with your knees bent up and feet flat on the floor. Slowly flatten your lower back down onto the floor, hold for a couple of seconds and then slowly arch your back off the floor. Hold for a couple of seconds. Repeat 10-20 repetitions. You can also do these on the bike, sitting up, rolling your hips forwards and backwards.

6 – LUMBAR EXTENSIONS

Back_Extension

Lay on your front with forearms resting either side of your chest. Push up on your forearms so that your upper body lifts off the floor a little. If comfortable, you can push up on your hands and straighten your elbows. Keep your pelvis on the floor. Hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.

7 – DEEP CORE ACTIVATION (INCLUDING PROGRESSIONS)

Core_Activation

Lay on your back with your knees bent up and feet flat on the floor. Place your fingertips just inward of the bony parts at the front of your hips. Gently engage your deep core muscles: some people find it helps to imagine stopping themselves going to the loo. You should feel them tense a little. Hold a few seconds. Release. Aim to hold longer as you practise more. You can also do this when sat on the bike.

8 – SUPERMANS

Superman

Get on all fours. Engage your core. Lift one arm out straight in front of you and lift the opposite leg out straight behind you at the same time. Hold a few seconds. Repeat 10-15 times each side.

Please see Suzie’s YouTube video for exercise progressions, additional exercises and information (https://youtu.be/AvN7Gu_sNxQ).

Other things you can do to help

  • Lift correctly. Bend your knees, not your back, keep the object close to your body and pivot on your feet (avoid twisting your body).
  • Lose weight if overweight.
  • Take regular exercise, even just a short walk for 30 minutes each day.
  • The height of your bars, angle of your levers and riding technique all matter, so set your bike up for you. A kidney belt can help by supporting your lower back, particularly off-road.

If you are doing exercises, looking after your back and pain is not resolving after one month, PLEASE seek a professional assessment as soon as possible.

Please email Suzie on cyril@avvida.co.uk for a full reference list if required.