10 things you need to know about your back


10 things you need to know about your back

Below are 10 great insights from The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) about Back Pain.

  1. Your back is stronger than you may think
    Most people worldwide will experience back pain during their lifetime. It can be disabling and worrying but it is very common and rarely dangerous. 

    The spine is a strong, stable structure and not easily damaged so in most instances it is a simple sprain or strain.
    In these cases – 98 per cent, according to research – people recover reasonably quickly, and many do so without treatment.
    Some people experience repeat episodes, which can be distressing, but again these are rarely dangerous.

  2. You rarely need a scan and it can do more harm than good
    This is because seeing perfectly normal changes to their spine can cause people to avoid the activities they should be doing to get better, such as exercise and movement in general.

    In very rare cases, there may be something more serious or underlying that requires medical advice.

    A scan may help with your diagnosis and symptoms to be aware of are at the bottom of this page.

    However, these account for just two per cent of cases so if your physio or GP does not send you for one, you should take it as a good sign that there is nothing concerning going on.

  3. Avoid bedrest, stay in work and gradually resume normal activities
    Scientific studies now indicate prolonged rest and avoidance of activity for people with low back pain actually leads to higher levels of pain, greater disability, poorer recovery and longer absence from work.

    In the first few days of a new episode of low back pain, avoiding aggravating activities may help to relive pain.

    However, staying as active as possible and returning to all usual activities gradually is actually important in aiding recovery – this includes staying in work where possible.

    While it is normal to move differently and more slowly in the first few days of having back pain, this altered movement can be unhealthy if continued in the long-term.

  4. You should not fear bending or lifting
    Bending and lifting are often portrayed as causes of back pain and while an injury can occur if something is picked up in an awkward or unaccustomed way, it’s most likely to just be a sprain or strain.

    The important thing is to practice and get your body used to carrying different loads and weights in a way we find comfortable and efficient.

    We all run differently, and it’s perfectly normal for us to find our own technique for lifting.

  5. Exercise and activity reduce and prevent back pain
    Exercise is shown to be very helpful for tackling back pain and is also the most effective strategy to prevent future episodes.

    Start slowly and build up both the amount and intensity of what you do and don’t worry if it’s sore to begin with – you won’t be damaging your back.

    No one type of exercise is proven to be more effective than others so just pick an exercise you enjoy, that you can afford to maintain in the long-term and that fits in with your daily schedule.

  6. Painkillers will not speed up your recovery
    There is no strong evidence on the benefits of painkillers and they do not speed up recovery.

    They should only be used in conjunction with other measures, such as exercise, and even then just as a short-term option as they can bring side effects.

    Exercise, which is safer and cheaper, is considered the preferred option.

  7. Surgery is rarely needed
    There are some uncommon back conditions where there is pressure on the nerves that supply the legs and the patient gets leg symptoms, such as pain, pins and needles or numbness.

    For these conditions, surgery can help the leg symptoms but it is important to understand that it is not always required.

    You also need to know that on average, the results for back surgery are no better in the medium and long term than non-surgical interventions, such as exercise.

    So a non-surgical option, which includes exercise and activity, should always come first.

  8. Get good quality sleep
    The importance of sleep in tackling back pain has become increasingly clear in recent years.

    This is because it reduces stress and improves your overall feeling of wellbeing, making you less susceptible to the triggers of pain in the first instance and helping you to cope when it does occur.

    Aim for 7.5-8 hours a night and try to aim for a regular routine, as far as possible.

    It is also very important to know that there is no best position or type of mattress – whatever feels most comfortable for you is best.

  9. You can have back pain without any damage or injury
    Many physical or psychological factors can cause back pain and often a combination of these are involved.

    Many factors can cause back pain and often a combination of these are involved.

    They could be

    - Physical factors, such as ‘protecting’ the back and avoiding movements, or a simple strain.
    - Psychological factors, including a fear of damage or not getting better, feeling down or being stressed.
    - More general health and lifestyle factors, like being tired and rundown, not getting enough good quality sleep, being overweight or not getting enough physical activity
    - Social triggers, such as difficult relationships at work or home, low job satisfaction or stressful life events, like a family death or illness.

    Crucially, it’s important to know that all pain is 100 per cent real and never ‘all in your head’, even when factors like stress or mood are involved.

    Each of the factors can turn up the volume on your pain and gaining a greater understanding of when that can happen puts you in a stronger position to recognise them and learn how to turn down the dial again.

  10. If it doesn’t clear up, seek help but don’t worry
    If your back pain does not clear up after 6 – 8 weeks, make an appointment to see your GP or physiotherapist

    Physiotherapists provide expert advice, guidance and treatment for back pain.

    This is to help reduce your chances of future episodes, while improving your overall health and wellbeing.

Symptoms to be aware of:

These symptoms are very rare but you should contact a doctor if you experience any of them:

  • Difficulty passing urine or having the sensation to pass water that is not there
  • Numbness/tingling in your genitals or buttocks area
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Impaired sexual function, such as loss of sensation during intercourse
  • Loss of power in your legs
  • Feeling unwell with your back pain, such as a fever or significant sweating that wakes you from sleep

Source: CSP

Download the CSP Back Pain Leaflet below...


Treating Running Injuries


Treating Running Injuries

As the joys of the Brighton Marathon and the Worthing Half Marathon become a distant memory, excitement over the upcoming London Marathon is growing. Many runners, however, will be nursing injuries from previous races and training.

Below we cover a few of the common running injuries and ways to help ease the pain:

Runners Knee: Also known as Anterior knee pain or Chondromalacia Patella, this describes pain and inflammation to the front of the knee, 'under' the knee cap. Common muscle imbalances around the knee and pelvis can cause the kneecap to be pulled out of the correct line of movement (mal-track). Running can encourage hamstring and ITB tightness which can pull the kneecap laterally. Worn trainers and overpronation can also be a cause. A physiotherapist can make an assessment to identify the cause of your anterior knee pain and the fastest route back to running.

Achilles Tendinitis:  The Achilles Tendon joins the 2 powerful calf muscles to the back of the heel bone. Inflammation of the Achilles Tendon can occur with changes to your running regime, such as increasing hill training or increasing your running speed. Tight calf muscles, tight hamstrings or excessive pronation of the feet (rolling inwards) can all be contributing factors. Rest, ice and anti-inflammatories can all help as initial treatments. Physiotherapy such as ultrasound and acupuncture can reduce inflammation. Stretching must be done gently, and it is wise to get your trainers checked, as these can also be a cause of the pain. 

Low Back Pain: There many causes of Low Back Pain, but muscular strain is often the culprit of a running injury to the back. Often there is an underlying problem such as muscle imbalances around the pelvis and 'core' eg. weak deep abdominals, tight hamstrings and back muscles. Rest, heat and gentle stretching exercise can all help. Physiotherapy can help diagnose and treat both acute and underlying problems.


For further information or to book and Assessment & Treatment, please call Sussex Physio Pilates on - 01903 256 500


Pilates Workshop for Runners


Pilates Workshop for Runners

Pilates Workshop for Runners


Runners focused Pilates workshop by:

Nicky Sykes - Physiotherapist & Pilates Instructor

Saturday 18th March 2017
9:30am - 11:00 am

Workshop Schedule:
Specific Pilates exercises for Runners
Posture for Runners
Injury Prevention
Handout of Exercises

Course Participation Requirements:
Pilates Experience Needed
Are you able to contract your Pilates Core?

1.5 Hour Workshop price is: £20.00
Only 3 places left

Not done Pilates before? 
Book a 1:1 Pilates Session Now!

Contact us now on 01903 256 500 to secure your place!


Healthy, Wealthy & Wise


Healthy, Wealthy & Wise

It was fantastic to be chosen for the latest issue of the 'Sussex Life Magazine'.

Hazel Sillver wrote a fabulous article on how to find a 'new lease of life in retirement' and has suggested 17 activities that are on offer in Sussex for the over 60s.

Sussex Life Mag

We are very proud to be part of Hazel's article and even more pleased that it was the first on the list and the only one from Worthing.

The article suggests a range of activities from Nordic Walking, Gardening, Dancing, Bridge, Cycling and Book clubs.

Hazel has captured what we offer the over 50s at Sussex Physio Pilates perfectly. She talks about how all of our Pilates teachers are Chartered Physiotherapists and that we have 4 Platinum Pilates classes across the week.

The Platinum Pilates classes are a friendly Physio-based Clinical Pilates class dedicated to the needs of the over 50s that focus on muscle tone, balance, osteoporosis prevention/management, posture and reducing aches & pains.

Sussex Life Article



Mannequin Challenge

SPP Mannequin challenge done!!

A HUGE thank-you to our Wednedsay 7.45pm class participants for being such brilliant sports (and Mannequins!).

Brilliant fun!

Note the Christmas socks theme.... and on that note, we are trying to decide which local charity to donate to this Christmas?....

Suggestions please : )



Benefits of Pilates for Back Pain Sufferers

Benefits of Pilates for Back Pain Sufferers

Chartered Physiotherapists have been teaching Pilates for years and use it as part of an effective treatment plan for those patients who suffer from back pain.

Many articles in the past have tried to undermine the benefits of Pilates and some even saying that it can make conditions worse. These articles are usually written by someone outside of the medical profession who have been misinformed and end up giving misguided arguments.

Glenn Withers, Director of APPI (Australian Physiotherapy & Pilates Institute) and Vice-Chair for the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Exercise Therapy (ACPET) who are involved in setting standards within the Physiotherapy industry, has for many years strongly disagreed with these articles. As Physiotherapists and Pilates teachers both Glenn and our team here at Sussex Physio Pilates have helped hundreds of patients with back pain, using the Clinical Pilates technique and have recorded their progress and recovery.

Many of the articles talk about sucking the stomach in (abdominal bracing using rectus abdominis - the 6 pack muscle) which drops the pelvic floor and can cause the exerciser to hold their breath (a technique that does not help to support the back).

In Pilates however, the deep lower abdominals are engaged with the pelvic floor to increase spinal stability (as scientific research shows), while continuing to breathe, thus helping support the back.

knee to chest hug

All of our Pilates teachers are APPI trained and also Chartered Physiotherapists, so they are in the best position to make assessments of patients, relive pain, restore mobility and strengthen through individually tailored treatments.

The benefits of Pilates are huge and below are just a few of them:

  • Increased flexibility & mobility
  • Improved posture and body alignment
  • Decreased stresses and strains on the back
  • A decrease in Back Pain!

If you need to book an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists or Pilates teachers, call us now on: 01903 256 500



Diastasis Recti - What, Why and How to Fix it!

So WHAT is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti occurs when the main abdominal ‘6 Pack’ (the Rectus Abdominis) separates down the middle due to the over- stretching of the line of connective tissue (the linea alba) that joins the 2 sides of the muscle together.

It often occurs in Pregnancy, although not exclusively.
During Pregnancy the rectus abdominis muscle stretches greatly, up to 50cm!  This can give a ‘stretch weakness’, which together with an increase in the intra-abdominal pressure (ie. the weight of baby, womb etc) can cause the muscle to divide as the diagram below shows.

Sometimes it’s just a small separation, that you may not even realise you have whilst you’re still expecting (or even afterwards). 
Other times it’s a wider or longer division, in which case a hernia (bulge) can sometimes be felt or seen.   

Either way, you are not alone, as it pretty common, occurring in between 30 – 66% of ALL Pregnancies (Boissonnault & Blaschak 1998).

You are also more at risk if it’s not your 1st baby (and your core was already weakened),  if you had a large baby, have a small pelvis  or if you did exercises that over-strained the rectus abdominis during pregnancy.




Get a Work Out at Work

Patients sometimes remark that being a Physiotherapist doing assessments and manual therapy 'must keep you fit'.

I agree with them up to a point, it does indeed require a fair amount of physical work to do physiotherapy treatment, but a lot of the movements are quite repetitive. If I miss a lunch break then I might be a bit tired and achy by the end of the day. If I work over a certain number of hours then I'm achy by the end of the week. If I don't do extra fitness such as running or swimming then my upper back gets stiff from leaning over the treatment couch. On balance I would actually say that I need to keep myself fit for my work rather than relying on my job to keep me fit.

I am one of the lucky ones though. I am not sitting at a desk all day and my job does not require long hours of driving, talking on the phone or sitting in meetings. Many people's long tiring days are then finished off with a few precious minutes sitting on the sofa before bed and then the whole cycle starts again without the body having done many movements apart from sitting. So many jobs nowadays can be very sedentary with long hours driven by stressful deadlines and heavy work loads. I see many patients who's musculoskeletal problems seem to be prolonged by their static work postures.

This is why the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is once again promoting WorkOut@Work (W@W!) for 2016.


This is an established campaign which aims to:

'Inspire employees to address poor work habits e.g. not taking breaks or over-working, and increase levels of physical activity during the working day, so that health is improved and sickness absence reduced.'

In previous years employees have enjoyed a brisk lunch time walk, raised awareness of taking proper breaks away from their desks, completed cycle challenges, work based exercise classes or participated in desk based stretching sessions. These are all ways of creating a bit of variety from static postures, raising the heart rate and enjoying some post work-out endorphins during the working day.

Does this sound like something that your work place could benefit from?

Here at Sussex Physio Pilates we are proactive in promoting exercise as a method for preventing injury and pain.

If you would like more information about 'WorkOut@Work' or maybe some help putting on an event at your work place to promote physical activity among your colleagues, then we would love to hear from you, as we can help get your work force moving and 'Fit for Work'.



Heather Lowman-Riggs

Chartered Physiotherapist