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Unlocking back pain during lockdown

27 April 2020

The current lockdown is presenting new problems for how we sit, move and exercise.  Stooping over laptops for a video calls, stressful jobs working the frontline, change of exercise routine – unable to access your usual classes, or perhaps just too busy juggling work, home schooling and running errands for family stuck in self isolation.

All these factors can lead to an increase in back pain, but why is this and what can you do about it?

Firstly, prolonged sitting – now there are lots of studies about the negative impact of prolonged sitting whilst working for example increase risk of health problems such as higher blood pressure and diabetes, back and spinal pain, and mental health problems.  Just small regular movements, regular change of position, daily walking, and breathing/relaxation work could all help to counter this and are really important – backs are designed to move!

Prolonged sitting is one factor as to why back pain occurs.  However, why does your back pain reoccur? Why is your back pain okay one day and worse the next?  During this current Covid-19 pandemic we are all faced with new daily worries and stress.

Below is a picture we think really helps to explain this (credit to Kristian Ekstrom,  @kristian.ekstrom, Stronger Me – book).  It helps to show how the everyday stressors and threats we experience (water filling the bucket) will vary on a daily basis and so therefore does our capacity to handle them.  If you have too many stressors, your ‘bucket’ will overflow and that’s when pain occurs.   A big bucket will be better at accommodating these stressors and wont overflow.  However, daily stressors and threats such as poor sleep, feeling unwell, stress etc. can not only fill your bucket quicker but also make your bucket smaller so it overflows quicker.


During this current Covid-19 pandemic, people are faced with many daily stressors and threats, for example financial stress, loneliness, depression, worry about loved ones, working the frontline as well as prolonged sitting trying to manage working from home.

As physios, we can’t change all of your daily stressors but what we hope to do through physiotherapy is to help increase the size of your bucket i.e. your capacity to manage.  We can do this largely through education and providing self-management ideas which are available via our video/online consultations.  Our physiotherapists will firstly assess you for any possible physical issues that could be causing your back pain and then educate you and provide home exercises for you to self-manage and feel more in control.

Below are a few exercises you can do at home to break up prolonged sitting and keep your spine moving.  Do each exercise within your limits of comfort, little and often. If you are struggling, please give us a call for an assessment and a chat.  Talking is so important when you are faced with daily stress.  Movement and exercise are proven to help improve mental health, reduce pain, improve muscle strength, improve sleep, and reduce the risk of many health conditions.  As stated earlier, backs are designed to move, so let us tailor a programme to suit you and keep you moving with confidence and feeling better.

To contact us call 0161 401 1000 or email



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