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Need to Sit, and that's the one thing that gives me problems

TromboneAlTTromboneAl Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:53 AM in Lower Back Pain
Hi, and thanks for this forum.

I'll make this quick, because sitting at the computer is the main problem I'm having right now.

Every 2-3 years I strain a muscle in my lower back. I'm an in-shape 57 year old who exercises 6 days a week. I do crunches and supermans for core strengthening.

On May 1 I was in a bike crash during a century ride. Two days later, I bent and twisted and picked up a 10 pound weight and strained my back again.

My problem is that I'm a semi-pro jazz piano player and need to practice. My back is usually OK, but with this extra injury, the practicing makes things worse.

I have a special chair that supports my lumbar region, but even if I sit just right with that support, or even if I sit on the front edge so that my back is nice and straight, I can't play for long without problems.

I decided to take four days off from piano, but I really need to get back to it. I know all the standard advice backwards and forwards, and I'm going on long walks and doing gentle stretches.

Any advice that will get me back to the piano faster?

So much for keeping it quick.





  • My thoughts...go to a back doctor (orthopedic specialist or neurosurgeon) or your general practitioner and ask them if it would help to go to Physical Therapy. I know you are fit but when your back starts giving you issues, you need to adjust how you keep your core muscles strong. The superman exercise seem good but they may be doing more damage then good when you hyper extend your back. There are other ways to safely work out with a 'bad' lower back.

    Also, walking is good for you. Flat surfaces.

    As for sitting...sitting puts the most additional pressure on your lower back. So
    1- don't sit for long periods of time. Can you get up every 30 minutes to walk for about 5-10 mins? If not, at least every 45 mins?

    2- drink lots of water...this keeps you hydrated, keeps inflammation down, and forces you to get up and walk...to the bathroom

    3- posture...I'm sure as a piano player you know this is critical. But maybe you can get some tips about how to improve your posture (ergonomics) when playing

    4 - do you have to use a piano bench or can you get a special chair/stool that might work better?

    5 - a doctor may be able to tell you, safely, if there is a prescription NSAID (anti inflammatory) that would help 'jump start' your back to better health. If you are inflamed, icing about 10 mins 2x/day could also help.
  • Thanks for the help, D!

    Yes, I have essentially a raised height office chair to sit in.

    Right now, however, my back can be OK, but if I sit at the computer for five minutes, even with picture perfect posture, I'll get up and have a back twinge.

    I figure that things are still so inflamed that even sitting just right is a problem.

    - Al
  • Yep...sitting is the worst for the lower back. I think I read that it add an additional load to your lower spine. I can't remember if it's an additional 30 or 60% but either way, that's a lot.

    Sitting can cause me issues as well. I've had 2 lower back surgeries at L5S1.

    Have you seen an orthopedic spine doctor or neurosurgeon? I'm not saying you'd need surgery but it might be worth getting checked out and having a baseline MRI just to know if there's any relief they can offer you through conservative treatment.

    I dealt with lower back pain for 17 year before I actually blew out the disc (stretched wrong). And occassionally, a trip to the doctor for prescription NSAID did the trick to get the inflammation down so I could then manage with walking, safe stretching, and ibuprofin.

    GOod luck.
  • Dnice gave some great advice, hard to add to it. The good thing from what you've described, the pain is staying in your back, and not radiating down your legs. Hopefully it is indeed a muscle or alignment issue.

    Probably seeing a spine specialist is the best way to go. This verifies that it is indeed localized. Some can then send you for physical therapy (to strengthen your core), a chiropractor to get things aligned, suggest items to alleviate load on your back (chairs, lumbar support, massage, maybe even muscle relaxers, etc.)

    At least you would have a better idea what is going on vs self diagnosis or guessing. I hope you have answers soon. Oh, have you tried alternating using ice and heating pads for relief? Another thing (sleeping) sleeping on your back with pillows under your knees (unloads the back a bit), or on your side with a pillow (or wedge pillow - made specifically for this) between your legs if you're a side sleeper. We sleep a 3rd or more of our lives, so why not take advantage to give your back a break too?

    Please let us know how it goes.

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thanks.

    Am looking for a specialist.

    Yesterday did a long walk and back felt pretty good. Stretched, took ibuprofen, and played piano for 15 minutes. Sat just right, took breaks, stretched, but back was much worse an hour later.

    I'm hoping I just need to wait a few more days.

    I have a gig on June 12.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,875
    If a new problem lasts 2 to 3 weeks or IF it starts to get worse, thats the time to think about seeing a doctor.

    I would start with your primary care doctor, who you could probably see faster than getting an appointment with any number of specialist.

    You indicated that you do strain a muscle in your lower back from time to time. Have you ever had that looked into to see why? Sure, we can all do things that strain a muscle, but after a while we get to know what we did to cause that. It might be worthwhile getting to the bottom of why this happens to you like you said.

    In the past when you did strain your lower back, what did you do to eliminate the problem? Sometimes, when there is an under lying problem, exercise, even walking might cause additional problems.

    Is there a fast path road you can take to quickly get you ready for your performance? Unfortunately, there are no really fix-quick remedies. Trying to speed up recovering from any problem can easily wind up causing more pain.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I was just wondering if you absolutely need to sit to practice your playing. i have trouble sitting at the computer a lot of the time so i stand and type.I'm short so i don't need to bend over :D My son plays the piano and sometimes if he's just playing one song for someone he will just stand and do it. Just a thought.
  • Thanks. Yes, for a stopgap measure I raised my electric piano and played standing up, but that doesn't really work.

    As an update, I'm much improved. I played a three hour gig the other day with a chair with a backrest, and that went pretty well.

    I'm working on playing without a backrest, and I'm doing these exercises twice per day:
    Back Exercises (import to MobiList)
    Cat Stretch
    Neck Raise with Strap
    Knee Raise
    Hip Raise
    Hamstring Stretch (Strap)
    Lumbar Rotation
    Child's Pose
    Paper Clip
    Side Plank
    Hamstring Stretch (Wall)
    Pectoralis Doorway Stretch
    Standing Leg Raise
    Neck Stretch
    Ingela Stretch

    Also, I've found this book very useful:

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