With approximately 8 in 10 people affected, almost everybody has suffered from back pain at some point in their lives.
It may even be troubling you right now or maybe you have just recently recovered. No matter what situation you are in, protecting your back is essential to your health and wellbeing.
Your spine is the central point for a well-functioning body, that’s why you need to make sure you do everything you can to keep it healthy and safe.
Below are 10 suggestions from our physiotherapy team on how to keep your back pain-free and your spine healthy.
Poor posture is one of the main causes of back pain. It is medically common to have some type of postural abnormality i.e. ‘duck bum’, ‘poke neck’ or rounded shoulders. Often the key is simply awareness. Every day, remind yourself to avoid slumping and to ‘stand tall’. Try to maintain that feeling for as long as you can. You know your posture is good when your chest is slightly lifted, your shoulders are relaxed back and down away from your ears, your chin is slightly tucked, your head is level and your stomach muscles are contracted, maintaining a neutral spine. Check every 30 to 60 minutes how your body feels from head to toe and then aim to stand or sit tall and brace your ab muscles gently, taking the load off your back. Eventually the adjustments you make will become second nature. Remember this applies no matter whether you are standing or sitting, and even when driving a car.
Having a healthy bodyweight is essential to keeping your spine safe. Extra weight means extra load on the vertebrae, resulting in a higher likelihood of pain. Even reducing your bodyweight by 5% can make a huge difference to your overall health, including your back.
If you spend a large amount of your time sitting down, make sure you take regular breaks (ideally every 30 minutes) to get out of your chair, walk around and stretch out your back. The same rule applies to extended car trips.
Lying on your back and rolling your legs from side to side and performing a variety of stretching exercises specific to the back, will loosen and ease tension in the affected area. Light non-specific back exercises are also encouraged such as regular walking.
While the ideal scenario would be to never lift anything too heavy, we know that’s not going to happen! Luckily you can avoid causing strain to your back by lifting with good technique. Good lifting technique means bending your knees, bracing your abs and squatting down to pick up something heavy. As you lift, push up through your heels, using the muscles of your legs. Make sure you keep your abs braced throughout, and hold the load close to your body when you carry it. Be wary when lifting anything of considerable weight in the morning – this is the time when your back is the most vulnerable.
A gym ball is a clever way to monitor your sitting posture while engaging your core muscles. Sitting on one of these elastic balls will help reduce the strain on your middle to lower back.
Foam Roller exercises can massage and release muscle tension, and improve the flexibility of joints and muscles in the upper and lower back.
Ensure your workstation is appropriately set up to avoid causing further damage to your back and spine. Examine your chair height, back support, computer screen, keyboard and mouse position, and the distance you sit from your desk.
Consider for a moment how much you are sleeping and how you would rate the quality of your sleep. If you are not getting enough shut-eye, this could cause stress to your whole body, resulting in more tightness through the back and neck. Try making sleep a priority by setting a consistent ‘bedtime’ and sticking to roughly the same waking time, ensuring you get at least seven hours of sleep per night. This might take some getting used to, but your body will be grateful. It is also worthwhile having a closer look at your pillow and mattress. Waking up with back pain is a significant indicator that these are either not right for you (too hard, too soft) or simply need replacing.
Pilates can help improve your posture and reduce back pain. The renowned method of exercise can help you to learn how to take greater care of your spine and improve the strength and flexibility of the back muscles.
By integrating these tips into your everyday life, you can be confident that you are doing what you can to protect the health of your back and spine.
If you would like further information about these tips or an individual assessment of the back pain you may be experiencing, please contact our physiotherapy team on 08 8362 8122.