Physiotherapy car setup

Back Problems from Driving? Try These 3 Tips

Back pain is one of the most common reasons that people see a physiotherapist. An important activity that back pain often interferes with is driving. People may have ongoing back pain that flares up when they drive, or sometimes the only time they have back pain is while they are driving or immediately after. Physiotherapy can help acute back pain, and long-term, chronic back pain and help you manage any back problems from driving.

Why Do People Have Back Problems From Driving?

There are many factors that are involved in back problems while driving. People commonly feel back discomfort in a variety of places. It may be more in the hips and low back, or in the upper and mid back, or even a combination. The best way to understand how to avoid lower back pain while driving requires taking a look at why it’s happening in the first place.

If you are consistently upright and tightly gripping the steering wheel you may feel it more in the upper and mid back or front of hips. If you are sitting in the one, maybe slumped, position for an extended period of time you may feel it more in the lower back. Driving in constant stop-start traffic can result in fatiguing hip and back muscles resulting in back discomfort.

People may experience ongoing or chronic back pain with driving, particularly if their job requires long hours behind the wheel. When sitting in a moving vehicle the body experiences forces and challenges that it wouldn’t in a stationary chair. You have to compensate for changes in speed and direction, the constant vibrations from the vehicle, and changes to your base of support as you use your feet on the pedals or shift to check your blind spot.

What Causes Back Pain?

Back problems from driving can occur from poor posture, sustained postures, restricted movement ranges, and decreased variety of movements. Your spine and back are comprised of your vertebrae, the discs and ligaments between and around vertebrae and muscles at the back, side and front of your spine. There can be structural changes to these tissues from age or from trauma that can change the capacity to tolerate load. Muscles can tighten up from habitual poor posture or repetitive small muscle strains. When the body continues to tighten up to protect itself from a perceived threat, we begin to lose options for our movements, often associated with an increase in symptoms.

How To Avoid Lower Back Pain While Driving

There are several ways to know how you can avoid lower back pain while driving. The correct driving position to prevent back pain is the one your body can tolerate without stress. Your body will send you signals it is unhappy via tight muscles in the shoulders, hips and low back. Especially when taking long drives you want to be as comfortable as possible. Take the time before you set off on your drive to get in the right position for your body.

3 key tips to avoid lower back pain while driving:

  • Adjusting Seat and headrest: we often find that people’s car seats aren’t set up ideally. Most cars will have multiple places that you change the seat position. Make sure that you are able to rest the back of your head on the headrest without it pushing your head forward. Try tipping the backrest to a different angle, even a slight change can make all the difference. The seat can slide forward and back to find a spot where the knees aren’t up against the dashboard but you don’t have to sit stretching the arms forward to reach the steering wheel. You may also be able to change the height of the steering column.
  • Using Lumbar Support: if the inbuilt options to change the seat set up are enough, or aren’t quite right you can use external additions. A lumbar support might be appropriate for you. You can also fold towels and use them under the hips, behind the low back or behind the shoulders.
  • Taking Regular Breaks: even after all of the changes you’ve made to your car seat, it’s still not going to feel completely great after hours and hours of driving. It’s recommended that you get out of your car and move the body every 2 hours to prevent mental fatigue. This also helps physical fatigue and is important in reducing back discomfort while driving. If you know your suffer from back discomfort with long drives take breaks more frequently.

How Do I Reduce Back Pain After Driving Long Distances?

To minimise back pain after driving long distance you can try a few stretches or movements in your breaks or once you get to your destination. Depending on how much space you can try some gentle standing movements. Lean forward with bent knees like you’re trying to touch your toes. You can gently rock from side to side here like a “ragdoll”.

You can also lean back with hands on your hips, or side to side. Lunges or squats can help move the hips and activate the glutes after being stationary. From a seated position you can take a twist to both sides, lean forward between the legs, or arch and curve the back with your hands on your knees. The point is to give your body the opportunity to move again after being relatively still and to reduce back problems from driving.

What Are the Best Exercises For Lower Back Pain?

Depending on the underlying cause of your lower back pain there are a variety of exercises that you can do to ease your back problems from driving. These can include mobility, strengthening, motor control and general exercise.

Mobility exercises can help to increase the overall range of movement that your body is comfortably able to access. These can include cat/cow where you arch the back in both directions from a kneeling or a seated position or bow and arrow which is a twisting movement of the thoracic spine from a side lying position. You can also use a trigger ball to release muscles or include a gentle stretching movement.

Strengthening can help increase the body’s tolerance and endurance to sustained postures. Key areas to strengthen for back pain is abdominal muscles, glutes and hip flexors, and back extensor muscles. Strengthening exercises can include pilates exercises such as single leg lifts, teasers, or planks through to weighted squats or deadlifts. It is important to work with a health professional to determine the appropriate level of loading or complexity for your body.

Motor control exercises are important in helping to change the patterns of the body. These can include pelvic tilts, where you tip the pelvic “bowl” forward and back, or hip shifts, where the hips move side to side. These help to highlight subtle position changes in the lower back joints and muscles and can provide more options when sitting for longer periods of time.

General exercise helps to reduce inflammatory levels in the body, improve overall strength and endurance and improve mood. All important elements in reducing back pain and discomfort.

Book In with Barefoot to Manage Lower Back Pain Today

It is common to experience back pain from driving. These are all general tips and suggestions to try to minimise your discomfort. If you are wanting more specific tips or want to know how to prepare your body for driving contact us at Barefoot Physiotherapy by calling 1300 842 850 or booking online.

Barefoot Physiotherapy Brisbane example of a Glute self release clients can do at home.

Self Management Physiotherapy

The goal of any Physiotherapy is ultimately empowerment and understanding, we want to provide you with the tools to be able to look after your body and to do it well. A one-size-fits-all blanket approach to self-care is not effective and in a lot of cases can do more harm than good. The human body is complex and every single one of us is different which mean our needs differ too. What one body likes, may exacerbate symptoms in someone else, so we aim to guide you to better understand your body and what it wants so that you can give yourself the best care.

Different how?

We all have different anatomy, postures, jobs, daily activities and hobbies which all goes into influencing our bodies and how they feel. At Barefoot we appreciate these differences and are committed to finding the root cause of your issues. We target these primary areas with our treatment and provide the tools so you can do self management physiotherapy at home too, because to get the best results you need to be able to take care of yourself.

Examples of Self Management Physiotherapy:

‘Person A’ presents with right shoulder pain and lower back pain and after testing with them we find that treatment to their glutes and right pec muscle is most effective so they get these releases for homework. ‘Person B’ also presents with right sided shoulder pain and lower back pain but treatment to their midback and glutes as well as pelvic tilts are most effective for their body so they receive these for homework.

You can see there is some overlap and some difference in homework for each person due to what works best for their body. We arrive at this knowledge through a process of testing with each person, as well as an understanding and appreciation for an individual’s situation. Self management physiotherapy is about feeling empowered and confident to take care of yourself armed with the right knowledge about your body and it’s requirements. If you’d like to book with us call 1300 842 850 or book online


Physio brisbane

Physio & Yoga – with Cath (Physio and Yogi)

Yoga is often prescribed as something of a “cure all” by both medical practitioners and the general public. Whether you’re suffering from low back pain, are pregnant, have tight muscles, are stressed etc, the answer is often – go do yoga. Now don’t get me wrong, I love yoga and I think it has something to benefit nearly everyone. However, I believe that for the best outcome your yoga practice needs to be just that – yours. It needs to be individualised and guided.  That’s where Barefoot Physiotherapy comes in! We bridge the gap between physio and yoga, to make sure you’re getting the most out of each.

How can Barefoot Physiotherapy help your yoga?

Regardless of your symptom presentation we are here to help you feel good again!  This involves looking at your movements, muscles, joints and any neural irritation. Once we have a picture of your body, we can work on treating and retraining the areas that are important to you. 

Barefoot Physiotherapy can help you decide the best type of yoga for your needs, whether that is yin or restorative, vinyasa or hatha.  We can help you adjust asana (postures) to best suit your body by using cues or props. Along the way, we’ll help you discover a better awareness of your body so you can implement these changes independently in a physio and yoga class.

What are the benefits of yoga?

  • Mindfulness: yoga incorporates breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation.  This awareness is useful in providing a nervous system “reset” and supporting your immune function. 
  • Motor Control – yoga is great for increasing body awareness and exploring options for movements.  By changing the cues used and allowing time for observation you can become more aware of subtle changes in your body.
  • Flexibility – the more active styles of yoga use gradual loading into range of movement, over time increasing your flexibility. 
  • Strength – active yoga styles encourage a co-contraction around joints (bandhas), body weight strength, and challenge your pelvic floor and deep abdominals in a variety of positions.
  • Cross-training – yoga nicely complements the more intense forms of training (running, powerlifting etc) and helps get the most out your body.

If you are wanting to find out more about how to include or adjust a yoga practice – or you just want to learn more about yoga and physio – book in with Barefoot Physiotherapy by calling 1300 842 850 or booking online

HAES Physio – Health at Every Size Physiotherapy

Your health is not dependent on your weight.

This may be surprising given the narrative spun from a host of sources including health professionals. Health at Every Size (HAES) is “an approach to public health that seeks to de-emphasise weight loss as a health goal, and reduce stigma towards people who are overweight or obese.” At Barefoot Physiotherapy, we place a lot of value in inclusion and take a non-biased approach to healthcare for our community with leading HAES physio initiatives.

Weight isn’t as 2 dimensional as diet and exercise…

We understand that size is complex and is influenced by many factors outside an individual’s control e.g hormones, genetics, and illness. Yes, diet and exercise definitely play a role, however the research shows that focussing on these factors can often be counterproductive for a person’s overall health and wellbeing. It’s all very familiar when we hear our clients have been told to “just lose weight” in order to solve their health issues or pain. This is a problem because in addition to being misleading, it also tends to have a negative effect on an individual’s health. Research shows that intentional weight loss doesn’t work. 95% or more of people who start dieting end up regaining all the weight they lost and 2/3 of those end up being heavier than when they started. This phenomenon can result in very disordered eating patterns and unhealthy habits, so it makes sense to move the conversation away from weight and focus on health in a more holistic sense.

What does this mean?

We can use so many other outcomes to measure one’s health e.g sleep quality, energy levels, and mood. More accurately, we should look at health as a combination of all of it’s many facets and ask the question, “what healthy habits can I employ to feel better now?”. This may be to focus on the joy of movement itself. This isn’t to say that having the goal of losing weight is wrong, so long as there is a clear understanding as to why.

Whatever your goal may be, we are here to support you on your journey to achieving it and feeling your best. Book your appointment with a HAES Physio team by calling 1300 842 850 or booking online

Mental Health

Mental Health First Aid course

Britt interviews Catherine

At Barefoot we are committed to continued learning and upgrading our skills as both Physiotherapists and holistic health professionals. In order to keep our finger on the pulse of new research and treatments we undertake courses as a part of our professional development. Over the past year although the ability to attend face to face courses has been limited we have been completing some fantastic learning online. Catherine recently completed a Mental Health First Aid Course and the skills learnt were delivered to the rest of the team in one of our weekly in-services. This week I sat down and had a chat with Catherine to summarise the course and provide you all with insight into some of our extra learning.

What made you choose the Mental Health First Aid Course?

Mental health and wellbeing is something that I’ve always had an interest in and try to consider in my interactions with others – personal and professional.  With the increase in uncertainty throughout 2020 this was a topic that was becoming more and more prevalent in conversations with client. I wanted more tangible skills to help navigate those conversations and feel more confident in how/when/where/why to refer.

What was the aim of the course and key topics?

Similar to a First Aid course the main goal was learning how to assist someone in a mental health crisis. We learnt key information regarding anxiety, depression and bipolar, and substance use disorders as well as an action plan to assist in the moment.

The most interesting fact you learnt?

Only 1/3 of people affected by mental health concerns will seek professional help.

Your 3 main takeaways?

  • Listen, listen, listen! In this context people don’t want or need you to ‘fix’ them, just to hear them.
  • Mental health is a continuum and people will travel along this at different points in their lives and for different reasons.
  • There is a wealth of resources and organisations for support – apps, websites, call lines, health professional etc. (see the bottom of this blog)

How can you implement your learning into your job as a Physiotherapist?

  • Being more aware of the signs and symptoms in my clients to be able to open up conservations before reaching a crisis point.
  • Considering how mental health illnesses can manifest physically but also how medications used to treat mental illnesses can create physical side effects as well.
  • Trying my upmost to enter every conversation with an open mind, ear and heart.

If you or someone you know is in need of help please reach out to someone you know, a professional or contact a helpline:

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636,

Lifeline: 13 11 14,

MHCALL: 1300 642 255 (1300 MH CALL) which is QLD Health. 

The Butterfly Foundation: 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE),

Activity pacing

Activity pacing

Why is it important?

When getting back into an activity after injury or a flare up we want to go slow and steady! What we often see is a “boom-bust” cycle, where a person completes an activity at a higher level than what their body is currently capable of and then has an extended period of rest to recover.  This can be short term (i.e doing 15km run straight from 5km walks) or long term (e.g. starting gym classes 5 x week when previously only doing 1 x 30min walk a week).  Over time we can experience a gradual worsening of symptoms or decrease in function over time. This is because the bodies threshold continues to decrease as it hasn’t been appropriately challenged.

When starting to increase activity level you want to consider your current, symptom free, functional level.  You can consider this as a single activity as well as across a week. For example, two 5km walks a week on their own is achievable but if you add a gym session it becomes too much.  You can also use same approach for day-to-day activities like cooking and vacuuming.  The activities you choose depend entirely on you and your current capabilities. Pay attention to what you’re doing, how long you’re doing it for, and what it feels like. When you’ve worked out your current limit, reduce the average of the limit (across the week) by 10-20% and that’s your starting goal!

Ideas of Activity Pacing

Have a read of the below examples and see if you can think through one for yourself.

Example 1:

Goal:  Return to Park Run (5km – distance not time goal)
Current level: 3 runs a week; achilles pain begins at 3.2km, 2.7km and 2.5km.  80% of average is 2.25km.

Starting point: run 2.25km 3 x week and gradually build by 10% each week/fortnight.

Example 2:

Goal: Cook a daily meal

Current level: Cooking 3 nights a week, back pain starts after standing for 8 mins, 12 mins, 10 mins. 80% of average standing time is 8 mins.

Starting point: 8 mins of active cooking time then rest for 50% of active time before repeating active time.  Can increase by number of days, or amount of time standing by 10%.

For assistance in creating a specific pacing plan for your activity give us a call at 1300 842 850 or Click here to book an appointment.

Britt at barefoot with physio ball

Exercising over the Holidays with Britt

As the year that was 2020 draws to a close, a few of us are settling into holiday mode to welcome in the new year. Christmas and new year time means different things to all of us but in some cases we do get a little bit of extra time on our hands to start a new project, try a different exercise, or set some new habits.

I’m sure there are quite a number of people who already know what their go to holiday exercise is. For some it’s that Sunshine coast hinterland hike, a mountain bike ride, running on the beach, a kayak or even an esplanade walk. But if you don’t and are thinking about trying something new here’s some tips.

Exercising tips!

  • Choose an exercise your ENJOY: I cannot emphasise the importance of this step enough. We know exercise in general releases endorphins and can lift our mood, but it is truly a great part of your day when you really enjoy the task.
  • Don’t set strict GUIDELINES: It’s the holidays we want to be having fun so don’t set yourself up for disappointment by giving yourself unmanageable goals. Instead of i.e. beach run every day, try 3 beach runs a week. Therefore, it’s more achievable.
  • Keep your body HAPPY: Whilst it’s awesome to smash our goals and reach new personal bests, it’s just as important to make sure our body is in the best condition to take on the new task. Therefore, keep on top of those releases, warm up and down efficiently. Trust me taking the extra time to fully stretch out will have you enjoying your new exercise even more.
  • REWARD YOURSELF: Come on it’s the holidays. Have that long brunch after your awesome hike, or get yourself that bit extra of Christmas desert if you’ll enjoy it! If we can’t reap the rewards of exercise, in my opinion, it certainly takes out half the fun 🙂

We’re here if you need us

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and if you or someone you know is experiencing any muscle joint or possible nerve irritation please contact us. We can determine if it is a musculoskeletal issue before having to see a GP. We are open 5 days a week and a couple Saturdays a month. We have early and late appointments available. Please call us at 1300 842 850 or Click here to book an appointment.


Accumulative Strain Flare ups

Years of full-time dance, hip surgery as a teenager and a semi-recent auto-immune diagnosis means that every so often my body goes a little bit haywire and throws out a variety of physical symptoms (a flare up) that impact my day to day activities. Yes, your physio can be sore too! The nature of our work means that we are physically and mentally active for the majority of the day. Which all adds to that accumulative strain we talk about in sessions.  As a physio and ex-dancer I have the benefit of knowing my body reasonably well. And the nature of accumulative strain means that we can tip over the threshold to symptoms with a seemingly minor event.

What do we do?

So how do physio’s manage accumulative stain flare ups? Firstly – have a good team in place!  Have all your strategies ready to go (or know who you can turn to to ask for help). That may be a partner or friend, physio, GP, PT, dietician, massage therapist – the list goes on! For me my auto-immune flare up presents as moderate to severe neural irritation in one arm. This is not super helpful with my job. Firstly we make sure my physio appointments are booked closer together to treat all of the things we already know make my body happier. I also get super strict with my food. I do this by avoiding things that cause more inflammation in my body and eating more of the things that make me feel good. As well as making sure I get more sleep. And making sure I have the opportunity to lie down/do my releases throughout my work day.   This is why we are always asking questions about other things in your life – it all makes a difference!

Physiotherapy Brisbane

How to think about it

Context is key.  Especially in accumulation strain flare ups or brain overload situations. We are always looking at the big picture.  There may be an activity that isn’t amazing for a particular body part but the overall mental/social/physical benefits mean we still want to include it but with modifications or extra releases.  For example, when my hip is really cranky it doesn’t like walking for more than 15 minutes but it will tolerate cycling a bit better.  The benefit for my whole system of being outside with gentle movement is worth having to do an extra long release session pre and post cycling.  As your physio (and general cheer squad) we’ll always be asking you questions and teasing out info to help you make similar choices if needed.

Physio brisbane

You can find out more about accumulative strain here (Read more).  If you have questions or need some help about creating a team or modifying activity ask your physio. Book in by calling 1300 842 850  or online at

Barefoot Physiotherapy Brisbane example of a shoulder self release clients can do at home.

Muscle releases at home

At Barefoot Physiotherapy we love meeting new clients and helping kick start them of their health journey. For most clients it is important to be completing their own exercises and muscle releases between appointments to maintain improvements. In a session with a Barefoot Physio we will do a head-to-toe assessment to work out what muscles need to be released to help improve your movement quality and reduce muscle tension. Completing these muscle releases daily is ideal as this will help to ensure you are consistently reaping the benefits of happy relaxed muscles.

Benefits of keeping your muscles happy are:

  • A reduction in muscular spasm and pain
  • Increase or maintain movement range of the muscle
  • Helps with post exercise recovery
  • Reduces tension pain such as headaches
  • Preventing injuries!
  • Happy muscle and joints = happy nerves 🙂

How often do you need to do your homework?

It is important to work out a way of fitting your muscle releases into your daily routine, so that they can be easily completed with the least amount of fuss. As a guide we recommend setting 10 mins aside to work through your release list. However, the ideal amount of time for you could be more or less depending upon where you are at on your health journey. Your physio will help you work out the ideal amount of homework for you!

Tips to fit releases into your routine:

  • Dedicate the ten minutes at a certain time of day as ‘me time,’ a good way of setting your body up to happily complete all your daily tasks.
  • Think about the various positions you complete your releases, this way you can conveniently fit them into parts of your day. For example: Sitting – you can do them during the ad breaks while watching your favourite TV show. Standing – during a study/work from home break against the wall. 
  • Keep any tools you need in an easily accessible spot, so there are no barriers for you to quickly fit a session of releases in. Make sure your foam roller, lacrosse ball or spiky ball are not hidden in a faraway cupboard.
  • Use visual cues to help you remember to do your releases: i.e. a post it note on your fridge or computer screen or a daily alarm/alert.
  • Importantly keep a list of your muscle releases handy this way you can easily access what ones you need to do. If you ever need help on how to complete them you can also follow this link, to read more about them on our website.

We can help with teaching Muscle Releases if you need

If you or someone you know is experiencing any muscle joint or possible nerve irritation please contact us. We can determine if it is a musculoskeletal issue before having to see a GP. We are open 5 days a week and a couple Saturdays a month. We have early and late appointments available. Please call us at 1300 842 850 or Click here to book an appointment.

Injury management

What its like to have an injury

By Caitlin Sargent:

As a physio I, along with many of my clients, expect I would rarely suffer injuries. As an elite athlete though it is kind of considered part of the deal. While it would be nice to always prevent all injuries, the nature of everyone’s lives is that at some point we are often going to accumulate too much strain and experience some degree of stiffness, pain or injury. It may be a slow gradual onset of tightness and discomfort when sitting in front of the computer or, as in my case, it may be a hamstring tear whilst competing at State Championships in front of a crowd.  And yes there is photo evidence.

Race injury
Photo credit: Casey Sims. Mid race Hamstring tear

Acute injury management

Most people are familiar with basic injury management – relative rest (ie don’t do the things that hurt), ice to reduce the inflammation and reduce the pain, compression to minimise swelling and aid in blood flow, elevation again to minimise swelling in the area. What does not often get discussed as part of this process, is the psychological management. “Where did this come from?” “How long will it take to get better?” “Will I ever be the same again?” “Is this going to impact my ability to work?”… The thoughts and questions can be an unhelpful spiral.

Sometimes, being a physio in these instances is helpful – for example, my lower back had been tight that week so I was not entirely surprised when I felt my hamstring tear. However as a physio I also felt irresponsible and embarrassed that I had ignored what I thought was a minor tightness and let it become a far more significant injury. It is important to know, that all kinds of thoughts and emotions are normal when experiencing an injury. However getting caught up in them, is usually not helpful (and can actually make our pain worse). Almost all injuries will make a full recovery and if you follow medical/physio advice, a majority of common injuries will be noticeably better in 2-6 weeks.

Injury management
Cross training

Physiotherapy management

Given my profession, I am somewhat biased – however I truly believe that good physiotherapy management and care can significantly speed up the recovery time for injuries. In my own case, after my hamstring tear, I had physio multiple times a week for a number of weeks. Given that the sciatic nerve runs through the hamstring, there was significant nerve irritation and early stage (first 10 days) treatment focused on this. Once the nerve irritation was settled down, we were able to do a fully body assessment and testing which found that T11 (a mid-back joint) made the most improvements to my hamstring length, hamstring strength and lower back range of motion. While it was frustrating to have my running training hampered, it was very comforting to see objective improvements happening in each session – giving me confidence that I would be able to return to training soon. I was able to modify my training to maintain as much fitness as possible, whilst also not impeding my recovery.

I have experienced a variety of injuries during my time as an athlete and I can confidently say it never gets “easy”. There are always frustrations, worries and negative thoughts. However I have found that by putting my energy into what I can do to get better (getting enough sleep, doing my self-releases, avoiding aggravating activities) and focusing on what training I can do (rather than what I can’t do) – I am able to minimise the impact of those negative thoughts. It allows me to see the injury as just another challenge in the life of an athlete – an opportunity for growth that will make me a better athlete, human and physio.

Injury recovery
Back on the hills