There are ways of avoiding one of the most common complaints of our times. Back pain is a problem that can affect people of all ages, fit and unfit, healthy and not so healthy. And it?s not just confined to just manual workers lifting heavy objects all day – office workers are just as likely to suffer from pain in the back and neck.
Statistics show that in the UK, for example, 40 per cent of adults suffer from back pain that lasts longer than one day. And it?s not just crippling for the sufferers – the health services feel the pinch too. However, there are steps we can take to avoid back pain, as well as stretching and strengthening exercises to build up a bit of resistance.
Avoiding Back Pain At Work
The main reasons for office workers suffering from back pain are badly designed office furniture, sitting in awkward positions and not changing position enough, whereas manual workers tend to suffer when lifting. The following tips should help.
- Put a small cushion at the small of your back for extra support.
- Take frequent short breaks to move around and stretch your muscles.
- Don?t over-stretch for items on your desk – get right out of your seat and pick them up if it seems necessary.
- When lifting, let your legs do the work. Keep the object in close to you and bend your legs to allow you to get your body under the object.
Avoiding Back Pain At Home
- Low chairs and old beds – these are the articles of furniture most likely to cause you back problems, while slouching on the sofa is also unhelpful.
- Avoid over-soft chairs, opting instead for those that support the small of the back and also avoid very low chairs, or chairs without arms, which can be difficult to get in and out of.
- Buy a supportive mattress for your bed – be sure to try lots of different mattresses to find one that suits you best.
- Change your mattress at least once every ten years. If you can?t afford to replace a sagging mattress, place a board underneath it as a temporary measure.
- Before lifting or digging in the garden, warm up first with some gentle stretching and a brisk walk to relax the muscles. Do the same thing when you finish to avoid stiffness.
Exercises to avoid back pain
As well as avoiding situations which can cause back pain, there are exercises you can do to stretch and strengthen the muscles that support your back.
?Back coach? Neil Summers has written a book, ?The Art of Backstretching?, which details a number of stretching exercises that have been endorsed by chiropractors, osteopaths and sports physiologists.
Neil says: ?Stretching the spine is the simplest and most effective way of keeping our spines healthy. Stretching removes pain and restores function, dissolving the stiffness which started the discomfort.?
Some of the exercises include:
- Walking on all fours – with hands and knees on the floor, walk slowly forward on all fours, and slowly backwards. This allows the vertebrae to take up their natural positions with no postural stress.
- Swaying bridge – lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet together, soles flat on the floor, arms outstretched above the head. Look up at the ceiling. Slowly raise the pelvis to lift the hips off the floor, keeping weight on heels and shoulders to form a bridge. Now sway your pelvis slowly from left to right, keeping your neck flat against the floor and breathing normally.
Dealing with back pain when it comes
No matter how much we try to avoid it, back problems are likely to hit many of us at some time or another, so it?s useful to know exactly how to deal with the pain and extreme discomfort.
Acute back pain usually subsides within a week or ten days, so don?t expect your doctor to have you up and running after a ten minute consultation. Time and rest are the best healers, and the following do?s and don?ts should help you deal with short-term pain.
- Do not ignore the pain – it won?t just ?go away?.
- Do try lying face down on the floor with your hands by your side.
- Do try an ice pack, but don?t place the ice directly onto your skin.
- Do go and see the doctor if the pain has not subsided after a couple of days.
- Do take painkillers – don?t try and be a hero.
- Do allow your partner to give you a very gentle massage, but don?t let them touch the spine.
- Do rest for as long as possible and use the time to reflect on how to avoid back pain in the future.