Top tips to prevent and reduce back pain from Dr. Karyn Staples

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One minute we’re focused on the things we need to do today, places we need to be, and people we need to see. The next minute, we make a wrong move, and the only thing we’re thinking is, “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!”

Realistically, that one move isn’t suddenly wrong. More likely, it is the final insult that reveals an injury, the cumulative effect of making small wrong moves over time. And most often, that ouchy feeling is in our back.

Dr. Karyn Staples says these small wrong moves result in microtraumas, eventually leading the body to revolt.

“After a while, the body says, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” Karyn says. 

As a physical therapist and owner of ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio in Peachtree City, Karyn sees real-life examples of this every day. Complaints of back pain account for 40% percent of clients who come to ProHealth looking for relief. The Centers for Disease Control says that one in four adults reports acute low back pain in the prior three months. It’s a problem for a lot of us.

When injuries or back pain slow us down, the team at ProHealth is ready to provide rehabilitation that improves the entire body’s movement. A Pilates-based mindset influences the physical therapy practice, which teaches us how to move in ways that prevent and reduce pain. 

“Generally, we only move through a few spinal segments to get through day-to-day life,” Karyn says. “The body wants to be efficient. It goes with what it’s used to and what’s available.”

As a result, she explains, we get wear and tear in one segment of the spine and perhaps not another.

“By doing other movements, we teach the body to go through other segments and counterbalance and distribute the forces better. Our goal is to let the body know, ‘hey, you’ve got some other options.’”

In addition to rehabilitative physical therapy, ProHealth offers Pilates in classes or private, duo, or trio sessions. Participating in a regular Pilates exercise regimen is one of the best things we can do to prevent injury and back pain, Karyn says.

Pilates helps us improve body awareness. We notice minor nagging twinges and pinches before they become major ouches. We learn new ways to reach, bend, stand, walk, and otherwise move better. Like establishing any habit, learning to move in new ways takes place gradually. 

“Whatever you practice is permanent,” Karyn says. “So if you practice better movement, your body will be like, ‘Oh yes, I do like that. Now this is my new normal.’”

For some people, the changes are incorporated within a few days, Karyn says, while for others, it can be several weeks or months. The longer a pattern has been ingrained, the longer it takes to change, but even gradual change can bring relief.

In addition to establishing a regular Pilates regimen, Karyn recommends several changes we can incorporate into our daily activities–a few dos and don’ts which may improve back health. 

Take Steps

Literally. Move throughout the day, she says. Find simple ways to keep moving. For instance, parking a little further away from the grocery store gives us a chance to walk more.

Heads Up

Walk with our heads up and chests forward, allowing the back leg to push us ahead.

Get Up and Walk

Each hour we are stationary, we need to move for five minutes. Be sure to get up and walk around hourly. 

Sit Back

When sitting, slide back in our chairs, all the way back, and place both feet on the ground. Don’t sit for hours at a time. Don’t sit with your legs crossed or sit to one side.

Lift With Care

The hips are our hinge. They help us bend over and lift things safely. Begin by standing with feet a little apart, then hinge from the hips and bow down with a relatively flat back. Knees follow. Don’t curve the back when lifting.

Take the Hills

Walking uphill is good for us, but proper form is needed. When walking uphill, Karyn reminds us to keep our heads up and eyes ahead. There will be a slight lean but avoid a huge angle. Keep the rings of the spine lined up straight. Don’t hunch. 

Preventing injury and reducing pain through better movement can help us stay active and improve the quality and even quantity of life.

“Staying active is the number one predictor of longevity,” Karyn says. “Movement is the best medicine. If we stop moving, we stop living.”

About ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio

ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio was founded in 2005 by Dr. Karyn Staples, PT, PhD, NCPT. Karyn leads a staff of more than a dozen physical therapists, Pilates teachers, and office support staff in providing effective research-based therapies and exercise.

ProHealth is located at 1777 Georgian Park in Peachtree City. For an appointment for physical therapy, call 770-487-1931. For more information, visit prohealthga.com.

If Pilates exercise is something you would like to explore, private lessons and classes are available throughout the week at ProHealth. Call or visit prohealthga.com/schedule

About Dr. Karyn Staples

Dr. Karyn Staples holds a Masters in Physical Therapy from the University of Evansville and a PhD in Orthopaedics and Sport Science from Rocky Mountain University. She is an Advanced Pilates Teacher and Educator with Polestar Pilates and is certified in Active Release Techniques (ART) for all body regions.

Dr. Staples marries physical therapy with the biomechanics of Pilates in her practice for best patient outcomes. Her constant search for knowledge shapes the culture at ProHealth, where she leads a staff of physical therapists in evidence-based and cutting-edge techniques. Besides educating her own team, Dr. Staples trains physical therapists at state and national conferences.