This Friday is World Spine Day, so what better time to share some health tips to help prevent back pain?
An amazing 71% of Brits surveyed have been suffering with neck or back pain for up to 10 years, according to new research, but many admit they don’t take proactive measures to look after their backs.
Experts at the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) found that 40% of people surveyed admit they have never done anything to actively protect their back health.
This is despite the fact that research from UK Statistics Authority has shown that the number of sick days taken due to back pain increased by 29% in the last year, from 7.7 million in 2013 to 9.9 million in 2014.
Causes of back pain
BCA chiropractor Rishi Loatey says: “As modern lifestyles put increasing amounts of strain on our backs and necks it’s becoming even more important for people to take proactive measures to protect their back health. Yet, we are seeing more and more people who have been struggling with back pain for longer periods of time.
“Prevention is always better than cure and it’s encouraging to see that some people told us they are taking steps to maintain a healthy posture, including limiting the amount of time they spend on laptops.
“However, there are a number of other simple processes that people can incorporate into their daily routine to reduce the effect that back and neck pain can have on their everyday lives. For example, people are often surprised at the positive impact that simply ensuring you take regular breaks when sitting for long periods of time, or walking regularly can have on your back.”
Spine health tips for back pain relief
Stop the slouch: Relax when sitting into your seat, making sure you have your bottom against the seat back with your shoulder blades touching the back rest of the chair. Try to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. For drivers – the back of the seat should be set slightly backwards, so that it feels natural and your elbows should be at a comfortable and relaxed angle for driving.
Get up, stand up: Don’t sit for more than 20-30 minutes at a time – stand up to stretch, change position and walk around a little. If you struggle to get away then take time to gently massage the back of your head and neck as you relax your stomach region with slow easy breathing. This will help to improve posture and reduce back pain by promoting balance, strength and flexibility in the spine.
Walk on: Adding just a few minutes walking to your daily routine could be of benefit. For example, walk to the shops instead of driving, try walking a little faster to boost the exercise benefit, take the stairs instead of the lift.
Drink up: Try drinking water instead of tea or coffee, it will be healthier and keep your body hydrated.
Stop smoking: Smokers are more likely to experience spine pain and they also heal more slowly.
Back health exercises
Keep your spine mobile: An inflexible spine is really ageing. Exercises such as Waist Twists can be done seated or standing anywhere and it helps to ease out many unwanted kinks. It also works the muscles which define your waist.
Keep your core muscles ‘fit for purpose’: Your deep core muscles wrap around your trunk like a natural girdle, supporting your spine like a built-in corset. Sometimes through injury or poor conditioning they aren’t as efficient as they should be. Pilates exercises are perfect for ensuring they do their job properly.
To locate your core muscles, sit tall, breathe in and as you breathe out gently engage your pelvic floor muscles and draw them up inside, you should feel your abdomen hollow. Hold this internal zip for a few seconds breathing wide as above. Now you’ve found them you can use them as, when and if you need to. Don’t be tempted to ‘hold’ them in all the time though, just engage them as required to help control your alignment and movements.
Stand tall, sit tall, walk tall: Just standing tall works the deep postural muscles, which hold you up against gravity. When you slouch, not only does it look awful (bulging stomach, round shoulders) but it also puts pressure on the spine and reduces the efficiency of your breathing and the ability of your core muscles to support the spine. Remember to lengthen up through the crown of your head and you’ll look taller and slimmer.
When you exercise, do first what you should and then what you would. We all tend to choose the exercises we like but they might not be the best ones for us.