Applied Posture Riding - lumbar back pain and dressage riding

  • Core Exercises and Horse Riding

    Core Exercises have become the latest craze for horse riders, and rightly so.

    The core muscles are the key to good posture, good horse riding, good balance, and absolutely for back pain control. Core training exercises are taught by gym trainers, personal trainers, and of course Physiotherapists.  The core muscle is the key to any exercise program. A strong core will give you a Flat Stomach a strong stable back and more energy.

    As a Physiotherapist, I design exercise programs for all of my patients.  Having a strong core is great but how to use it in the saddle requires specific exercises and movement patterns. Many riders have a strong core but don't engage it when riding. Pain is also an inhibitor of the core. If you suffer back pain your core switches off and slowly weakens with time.

    before and after APR

    The core muscle provides stability so all the postural and working muscles, with stability, the body can work, and burn more energy, more efficiently. Stability through the lower back and pelvis puts the body in a better alignment, therefore minimizing stress on the joints. Trauma and injury during or after exercise are less likely to happen.

    Core Exercises

    If pain occurs then the workouts need to be modified, this interrupts the exercise program, pain is most often caused by over-exercising and or exercising in bad postures. A huge number of my patients present with injuries related to exercising and their sport.

    Very few are injured due to a trauma or an accident, most pain results from poor movement patterns during exercising.

     Abdominal exercises for women do not need to be heavy and hard. Women want a flat stomach and a toned small waistline. The old fashion abdominal exercises, like sit-ups, have been proven to be ineffective, too hard, and unsafe, causing stress and strain on the lower back joints. This why women give up and then find it difficult to get back into an exercise regime. I believe it is important to teach women more so than men about the transverse abdominal muscle and how to engage it, then test it, then train it, then use it. 

    Core Exercises for Horse Riders

    All instructors are now recommending their riders strengthen their core to improve their riding. 46There are many Pilates exercises available to everybody and certainly doing any exercises as well as core exercises will help your riding. Any exercises that will increase your general tone and fitness are of value. Many horse riders think they are fit and toned just by riding, in fact, horse riding without doing any other exercises will give you stiffness and usually lower back pain. The least a horse rider should do is stretch.

     However, core exercises are the be all end all for horse riders. A strong core when riding gives the rider stability, control, strength, and precision to perform aids with skill and clarity to the horse. A rider with a weak core is usually bouncing in the saddle has a wobbly lower leg and uses the reins to balance. A weak core causes a rider to stoop forward and be unbalanced. As a rider coach, my specialty is teaching horse riders to ride. I focus on the horse riding muscles and especially the core.

    My programs teach riders everything about the horse riding posture and the core. If you have a passion for your riding I have a passion for teaching you.

    Have a look at my Applied Posture Riding Membership Program

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    Good luck and enjoy your riding. If you have any questions or need some advice about core exercises or back pain or posture then contact me.

    Annette Willson

  • 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 

  • Managing Injuries In Horse Riders

    We all know riding is our passion and we all know the general public, health professionals in particular label horse riding dangerous. Well everybody is right but to be fair more money is spent on contact sports to rehabilitate injuries than in horse riding.

    Horse riding produces more repetitive inflammatory injuries rather than high impact traumas. Although my injury is an impact injury from a direct fall many riders suffer ongoing pain, stiffness, and soreness in many parts of their body on a daily basis. Shoulders are a primary target for sprains, strains, and minor trauma injuries.

    Lifting, throwing, pulling, tugging, dragging, rails around the tail ramp on a float, etc all cause pain. All these objects including throwing rugs and lifting feed buckets, even grooming horses regularly all affect the shoulder and or upper limb joints. The lower back is another common and painful area to affect horse riders.

    So How Do We Manage Injuries In Horse Riders?

    I believe and state "horse riding is good for your body" I state "horse riding is not bad for your back". The job of caring for your horse is the damaging part of the sport. Also, obviously, I have to say falling off IS bad for you, but if you don't fall off and ride to your own level then horse riding is one of the best sports for fitness, tone, and happiness.

    Managing Skill level

    ben and rusty 2A strong lower leg is essential for confidence and skills. Horse riders seem to spend so much money on lessons. Well, not all instructors will teach you good skills. If you are progressing and your strength, confidence, and performance improve then your instructor is of good value. If your instructor begins to reproduce the same lesson over and over and repeats the same instruction then.

    1. You have reached the limit of that instructor and time to change, or

    2. You have a block in yourself you need another approach or more professional instruction, or

    3. You need more time between lessons to establish the skills you are learning.

    Re point 1. Many instructors are great with the initial basics and great to a certain level. This is a good thing but if you are advancing beyond the skills of your instructor then don't be held back and move on.

    Re point 2. Many instructors are able to identify rider problems but don't have the skill or knowledge to fix them. Eg. commonly I hear from riders who are told over and over "You're crooked..straighten up", repeated every lesson. Yes, the instructor can identify the problem but the solution requires much more insight than just "Straighten Up"! This is one of the most common problems I hear about from riders. This is a problem that requires much more knowledge from a professional.

    The Applied Posture Riding program has detailed information about this. Gymkhana Clare 2012 068 websizeA rider will never be straight in the saddle if they can't sit straight on a chair, walk straight or lie straight. It may be their spine, it may be their hips, it may be their pelvis.  In many cases,  long term bad habits and lack of stretching can affect your riding posture.

    Without knowledge of the musculoskeletal system, a riding instructor will not be able to instruct a rider on HOW to fix their riding posture. Good skills lead to better and safer riding.

    Managing Minor Injuries and Pain.

     It seems a good idea to manage minor aches and pains before they become major aches and pains. We all manage pain... we don't manage NO pain. So if you have minor aches then learn to deal with them every day before they develop into serious problems that will require months of rehab, money, and time away from horses not just riding.

    A broken shoulder cannot even feed a horse let alone rug or, ride a horse. Minor shoulder pain can lead to a complete spontaneous rupture over time as it decays away slowly. Bang one day it is fine the next day it is ruptured! It happens!! Learn to stretch and exercise properly every day, don't assume riding is enough.! I have a great program to manage NO pain as well as manage existing injury.

    Managing Major Injury as a Horse Rider.

    stock photo 4145745 impromptu exit Lower back pain doesn't mean stop horse riding!  Of course, when you have a major injury you need to seek local professional medical advice and you need to follow it. Having scans and seeing specialists in their field is essential. If you break a bone and it takes six weeks to heal then it takes six weeks to heal, you or I cannot speed time up. If you try, it usually ends up needing more time because you wreck it. A CT scan or an MRI scan tell the truth, it is what it is. Healing time is real as well.

    I look at the cause of pain and deal with why you have pain as well as how to manage and fix it. I look at the state of the injury and give advice about the mechanism that will harm and help. It may be as simple as changing the way you do what you do not stop what you do. EG. I stand on a bench to brush my horse to protect my shoulders. I use a sack trolley to move feed around. I have gaps in my fence to walk through rather than climb under or over. I use a back brace for pain control in my back.

    My passion is horses and I also love seeing riders return to their passion after injury and most of all love seeing riders achieve what they have been told to stay away from If you have a problem with your riding and have reached a block in your progress and have a look at the Applied Posture Riding program. 

    If you want to follow my way of training join my, follow Applied Posture Riding Membership Program

  • 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

  • Tips On How To Care For Your Back And Your Horse

    liftinhMany people think riding is dangerous and the cause of many sporting injuries. Granted, falls can result in major injury but a majority of injuries come from caring for your horse. The postures you move in and out of during your day affect your lower back, more often than a fall does. The consequences of microtrauma can sometimes be more devastating than a major trauma, such as a fall.

    This part of riding is often not addressed with riders. It is just as important to learn how to care for your own body while you care for your horse as is it to learn how to ride.

    Back pain has a huge impact on every aspect of your life, not just your riding.

    I see many people with back pain in my Physiotherapy practice. Many of them state "I haven't done anything, it just started". When I dig deeper all of these people have a repetitive daily activity, like picking up toys, moving items at work, bending to reach objects, lifting children, driving, and desk work. All of these activities are repetitive.

    The common movements of bending and or lifting occur many times in a day. Each episode of lifting and or bending involves pressure through your body. If this movement pattern is performed with poor stability and or poor alignment then the stress each time may well be creating a micro-injury. Each micro-injury is usually pain-free but when they start to add up over time then an injury is brewing.

    This is the scenario I see all the time.

    Prevention, understanding the actions, and training yourself to protect your back is the key to pain-free longevity.

    Tips to Protect your Back

    • Learn how to use your core
    • Stretch everyday
    • Only lift when you have too
    • Do little backbends often during the day
    • If you can lean on something to bend over then do it
    • Sit with your legs spread wide at your desk
    • Minimize sitting trot and canter work if you are in pain
    • Wear a back Brace for heavy work

    Back Brace jpg 1 websizeMost back pain comes from the work you do every day, not from riding or falls.

    If you do have an injury then make sure you have an assessment and treatment and most important the correct rehab program. The rehab must involve core work, movement patterns, and time.

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