Applied Posture Riding - lowerack pain and riding

  • Lower Back Pain...How To Manage It As A Horse Rider

     

    4820068 spine I think lower back pain is the single most inhibiting factor for horse riders. It certainly seems to be the most common problem horses riders suffer. It also seems to be the problem not well managed by the medical profession as far as horse riders are concerned. Every horse rider who has emailed me has been told to quit riding and find another sport. 

      I was told the same at 18 years old to never ride a horse again. I recovered and went on to ride at an international level, I still manage my lower back pain and live life as I want, not by a doctor's standard.

    The most common causes of low back pain are:

    • Overuse of muscles, ligaments, and joints
    • Repetitive movements
    • lifting and twisting
    • jarring eg. machinery
    • osteoarthritis
    • the trauma of various kinds

    Leg pain (nerve pain) can be caused by pressure from the disc, swelling, inflammation of the joint.

    When osteoarthritis affects the small joints in the spine, it can lead to back pain. Osteoarthritis in other joints, such as the hips, can cause you to limp or to change the way you walk. This can also lead to back pain.

    Spondylolisthesis, a defect that allows one vertebra to slide over another. Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, which is usually caused by getting older.Fractures of the vertebrae caused by a lot of force, such as from an auto or bicycle accident, a direct blow to the spine, or compressing the spine by falling onto the buttocks or head. 

    Lower Back Pain and Horse Riders

    The most common injury in horse riders is a disc herniation or a disc prolapse. This comes fromrepetitive loading and vibration. 

    4870095 ruptured diskAlthough this injury is serious and very painful it does not mean the end of your riding career or your dreams, 95% of people suffer the same, and many recover to live normal lives. The disc is the shock-absorbing structure between the vertebrae. It is the cushion that allows us to bounce and jump and run and ride and absorb the impact through our bodies.

    The disc is under pressure from all our activities in life, not just horse riding. Lifting, bending, twisting, coughing, sneezing, sitting, running riding, and many more life activities put the disc under pressure. The disc is damaged from these micro repeated pressures and eventually bulges into the spinal space, this is called a disc herniation.

    This often progresses to a disc prolapse, this is when the disc cracks and the pulpis (center structure) ooze out into the spinal space.

     The level of the prolapse determines the symptoms presenting. The symptoms depend on the position the prolapse occurs, sometimes the nerves are involved and in others, they are not. In my case, it completely squashed the L 5 nerve root and I had complete numbness and muscle weakness of that nerve root.

    I was lucky  I did not get leg pain I only had lower back pain and the tilted posture. The management of disc prolapse is determined by the level of the prolapse and the symptoms presenting. A person with a lot of pain needs to take pain medication prescribed by their doctor. Sometimes it is a matter of trial and error with drugs.

    Treatment on the spine is so useful to treat pain, muscle spasm, and joint movement. Everybody needs advice on posture, daily activities, and how to do what they do. The disc will heal over time and it needs to be protected as it does. The body recognizes the prolapse as a foreign body and the cells will slowly eat the prolapse away and the nerve root will recover to a point and the pain settles.

    Management For a Disc Injury. Lower Back Pain and Horse Riders.

    I prescribe a back bracein nearly all my back pain patients. Absolutely core exercises are started immediately and functional core training is started. Pain medication must be taken as necessary and heat is also very useful. Not everybody improves with heat, some respond to ice, so try both if you are not sure which is correct for you.

    Avoid sitting for long periods and also standing. Lifting, bending twisting, running, coughing, sneezing all increase the disc pressure and increase pain.

    Rest from loading is absolutely necessary. Rest from riding is necessary too. Rest is a word horse ridersdon't like to hear and all ask how long. Well, it is just a fact it takes a split second to be injured and months to heal...a fact of life riders!!! We are all prepared to allow our horses to rest the maximum time required, so do the same for yourself.

    Back Brace jpgAs a physiotherapist, I also treat my back pain patients. I use acupuncture, mobilization, and of course advice on lifting and work and exercises. A back brace or taping are also adjuncts to treatments.

    Some patients need to be referred for a prescription of anti-inflammatory drugs, but many just take over the counter medications.

    Controlling back spasms is primary. Time and knowledge are important. It is important to get your body back to a posture that it can heal in. Regaining muscle length, joint position, and flexibility and not aggravating it is important.

    As far as returning to riding, the core strength and the jarring need to be managed. Lower Back pain stops the core working so overriding the mechanism is important. I teach my patients the core crunch and how to use the back brace to improve their core. I advise you to ride in a back brace and certainly have it on while around the horse yard.

    To finish off, each person is different but the injury is the same. It affects your whole life, not just your riding. It is important to get and follow professional advice. I do allow my patients to ride early because riding is not bad for your back...putting the saddle, on, though, IS.

    If you are returning to riding after an injury and want to follow my program then join my

    Applied Posture Riding Membership Program

    . Good luck and enjoy your riding 

  • Preventing and Managing Headaches and the Horse Rider

      Headaches are a common problem in the general population but especially prevalent in horse riders. There are numerous causes for headaches, but one of the most common and easy to fix, causes is poor posture and poor movement patterns.

    The upper three neck joints C1, C2, C3  are associated with the nerves that supply the brain and the head.

    If these nerves are squeezed or irritated in any way they may well cause a headache.  A migraine is a further squeezing of these nerves and results in symptoms like an aura, nausea, vomiting, and severe head pain.

    A migraine is a severe headache. Slumped and Upright Standing Posture Headaches that are caused by poor posture and the movement or lack of movement in the first 3 vertebrae can be fixed or at least managed. 

    The poking chin posture (see the photo on the left) causes stress on the upper neck joints and this squeezes the nerves to the brain and head and results in a headache.

    As a Physiotherapist, I see many patients with a headache. Many of these have recurring neck pain and stiffness as well as headaches. Many have a pattern to their headache and can cope until one day the headache escalates and then becomes a problem. Horse riders start to notice their headaches are more frequent after riding or after a competition or a lesson.

    This is most likely due to poor riding posture and the vibration and movement of the horse. Unless there is a medical cause, most headaches are what we call 'cervicogenicc' (cervico means neck and genic means the origin of). 

    Poor neck posture and poor general posture will nearly always result in a headache, given enough time. Repetitive behaviors and postures resulting in the neck being in a poor posture will result in headaches. These postures are the positions we use in our daily work and in our riding posture.

    So what is the Relationship between the Horse Rider and Headaches?

    DSC 0036The ultimate poor neck posture comes from the round shoulder posture. In this photo, the position is exaggerated for you to see the problem. A person with round shoulders on the ground will have round shoulders in the saddle. When the shoulders are forward and so-called round then the neck will be in a forward poking chin posture. This posture puts the upper neck in an extended position and this squeezes the joints, nerves, and muscles.

    The chin is up and the abdomen is closed down, so the core muscle does not work either. Over a period of time, the joints become stiff and painful the muscles shorten and the nerves become inflamed. The nerve then refers the pain into the head as a headache. The increased pressure of riding in a round shoulder posture will increase the pressure and hence nerve pain.

    Horse riding is a major cause of headaches. All other activities associated with horses can put pressure on the neck as well. Many do not use any of their postural muscles and are just hanging off their joints. Many people spend many hours in this posture. Driving, computer work, housework, are just a few of the activities that reproduce this posture. As horse riders, we then adapt the same posture in the saddle. Horse riders get told to sit up and put your shoulders back.

    How do you fix it?

    DSC 0035The easy quick answer is to straighten up, correct your posture, and manage your mobility. The long answer is to educate yourself and manage it with knowledge. It is important to learn how and why you adopt the postures you do and then become educated on how to fix yourself and manage your pain with posture management.

    Not many therapists will be able to relate your headaches to horse riding unless they know about the horse riding posture. 

    Managing Headaches as a Rider can be easy.

    The control of headaches in horse riders is the same as for all people; however, I put an increased emphasis on particular features of treatment because I am a horse rider. 

    To control headaches your upper neck joints must have mobility. Your muscles must have strength and endurance. You must have strong core stability as well. The deep core muscle strength will reinforce the correct upper neck posture. I start with the core muscles of every patient I treat for headaches.

    The success of management without this knowledge is always limited. I give simple but effective stretching exercises and I educate patients about their posture. I advise all my horse riding pupils to follow the Applied Posture Riding program.

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    If you would like to learn more please join my Applied Posture Riding Membership Program. 

    cheers Annette Willson