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Sport and back pain: the right reflexes – well-being athletes 

In their lifetime, four out of five people suffer from back pain. The latter, often located at the bottom of the spine, is called “low back pain”. While this evil is common, it should not be considered inevitable. There is a proven natural remedy: physical activity! Sport and back pain = the winning duo! Discover the right gestures and exercises that relieve the back.

According to an OpinionWay study1 in 2017, nine out of ten French people have already been affected by back pain. Low back pain affects all ages. A suffering which nevertheless concerns more women (61%, against 39% of men). Young people tend not to consider seriousness even though 84% of 18-24 year olds say they have had back pain in the past. Athletes are not spared either. What to do in case of back pain? What exercises can provide relief? Mathieu Joubel, sports physiotherapist and athletic trainer at the K-Sports firm in Rennes, provides some clarifications.

Lack of physical activity, a common cause

Sedentary people (sitting or standing work, long immobilization during the day) are the most affected by back pain. Lack of physical activity causes muscles to relax, which are no longer strong enough to play their supporting role.

Back pain is linked to prolonged static postures. An adapted physical activity is the aim of the care of people suffering from low back pain », Recalls Mathieu Joubel. Physical activity is a non-drug therapy that is effective in preventing and treating back pain.

Sport and back pain, the winning duo

However, for more than half of the people questioned, the drug solution appears as the first reflex, without real long-term satisfaction. One in five French people even say they can do nothing about back pain. “ In times of acute crisis, if it is impossible to move, you should consult. The causes can be varied. It should be determined whether the muscles are tightened by protection (prolonged sitting, stress) or whether the cause of the pain is deeper due to joint stress », Advises the physiotherapist.

When the pain appears or is too intense, the first instinct is to rest. Gold, immobilization is the enemy of the back!In times of crisis and even in remission of pain, people develop kinesiophobia, fear or apprehension of movement “, He noted.

Back pain is also rife in athletes

Athletes are also affected by back pain. “ This could be due to postural imbalances or a muscle deficit. Deep muscles may have difficulty in performing subtle movements “. Treatment with physical activity will not be the same depending on the source of the pain. Too much muscle tension can be treated by stretching, roller massages and rebalancing muscle tone via specific strengthening. ” The acute cause is treated in a physiotherapy practice, but the patient remains independent in his treatment in the event of chronic pain », Emphasizes Mathieu Joubel.

In the case of low back pain, sciatica and other back pain, if the pain can constitute a brake on the practice of sport, it is recommended to continue it as long as it remains bearable. ” ATfter the crisis, we must move again as soon as possible », Advises the expert, without committing to too intense efforts. It is important to regain some mobility of the spine and flexibility of the back muscles. Mathieu Joubel encourages his patients to mobilize the blocked structure and to continue an adapted physical activity thereafter. “ It is important to move the column or the blocked joint in all planes and to rebalance the muscular tensions, at the risk that the tissues lose elasticity. “.

5 anti-back pain exercises

To strengthen the transverse: the vacuum stomach
The starting position : Standing, bend the knees, tilt the torso forward while keeping the back straight. Place your hands on your thighs.
How to do ? Breathe in deeply through your nose and completely empty the lungs with a short exhale. Then take a false breath (inflating the rib cage). Engage the muscles of the pelvic floor (this small muscular hammock going from the sit bones to the pubic bone which includes the perineum), go up this contraction in the lower abdomen, then under the stomach. Exhale as you bring the navel towards the spine.
Keep your belly “sucked” by holding your breath (10 to 30 s). Inhale slowly as you gently release your stomach.
How many times ? 8 to 10 breaths.

To strengthen the abdominals and back: the bird dog
The starting position : In quadrupedics, hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Align head-shoulders-pelvis and lengthen the spine.
How to do ? Inhale, engage the abdominals and pelvic floor. Exhale, stretch the right arm forward and the left leg backward, stabilizing the pelvis. The back of the neck in line with the spine and the gaze towards the ground. Look for self-magnification. Inhale, rest your limbs on the ground and repeat on the other side.
How many times ? 8 to 10 repetitions.

Young attractive woman practicing yoga, stretching in Bird dog exercise, Donkey kick pose, working out, wearing sportswear, black top and pants, indoor full length, studio background

To strengthen the back of the body: swimming
The starting position: Lie on your stomach, arms and legs stretched out on the floor. Lift your arms and legs a few inches off the ground.
How to do ? Inhale for 2 beats, bring up the right arm and the left leg. Then, alternate with the left arm and the right leg. Exhale for 2 beats. Avoid rocking the body by keeping the stomach engaged and the back not hollowed out.
How many times ? 10 breaths.

To strengthen the deep muscles of the back: the pallof press (with elastic)
The starting position: Hang the elastic band at a fixed point. Position yourself laterally at this fixed point. Standing, bend your knees slightly, straighten your spine, and lower your shoulders. Grasp the elastic band, join hands close to the sternum. Feel the tension of the elastic. Extend your arms out in front of you, hands in line with the breastbone.
How to do ? Engage the center of the body and activate the perineum. Extend your arms in front of you in line with the center of the body for 2 beats. Bend the arms to bring the fists in the direction of the breastbone on 2 counts. The body remains in the same position throughout the exercise. You must resist, and not give in to the bust rotation.
How many times ? 6 to 8 repetitions.

To stretch the back and abs: the cobra and the child’s pose
The starting position: In quadrupedic, hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Align head-shoulders-pelvis and lengthen the spine.
How to do ? Exhale, push the glutes back to place them on the heels. The arms are extended forward and the forehead towards the ground. Inhale, unroll the column by forming a wave with your back to return to quadrupedic. Then, drop the hips on the floor, arms slightly bent and bust raised and self-enlarged.
How many times ? 6 to 8 breaths.

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Sport and back pain, the right reflexes to adopt

  • Avoid playing sports in the event of an acute attack.
  • Resume sports practice when the pain is bearable.
  • Massage, stretch, apply heat in case of pain.
  • Ask yourself about the origin of the pain for a suitable treatment: stiffness of certain muscles of the back, legs and pelvis or a lack of tone of the back and abdominal muscles, an asymmetric muscle deficit.
  • Complement your sports practice with other activities: PPG (general physical preparation, that is to say muscle building) running, cycling, or swimming, indoor cardio classes, mobility (HIIT, Bootcamps, of CrossFit).
  • Vary the training constraints (for example, vary the terrain when running).
  • Do cross training: mix running and swimming, high intensity training (HIIT) and yoga, tennis and Pilates, etc. Above all, supplement with an activity with little stress such as yoga, Pilates or swimming.
  • Strengthen your deep muscles and do proprioceptive work (work in instability on Swissball or on a balance platform, change of position, muscle tension and then relaxation).

1 : OpinionWay study for Vexim on a 1009 French sample in March 2017.

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