Seven Secrets to Avoiding Back Pain: Prevention


Seven Secrets to Avoiding Back Pain

Estimates say a jaw-dropping 80% of adults experience back pain in their lives… And a survey from 2000 suggests that, during any given year, as much as 49% of the UK’s adult population suffers from back pain lasting 24 hours or more. So what are our Secrets of Preventing Back Pain? Here are the seven top tips to reduce the chances of your being among those statistics!

Relax: Even as you read this, you may notice – now that we call attention to it – that some of your muscles are clenching or aching… That stiffness might be in your jaw, neck or shoulders. It might also be in your back! That’s because day-to-day stress causes your body to produce hormones that increase muscle tension and, compounding the problem, your sensitivity to pain.

But developing the habit of deeply relaxing your mind and body helps alleviate numerous aches and pains – including those associated with the back and lumbar region. Try to relax in a way that involves the mind and body: regular meditation, hypnosis and Yoga can all help.

Stretch: Gentle exercise that stretches your muscles also helps release tension, as well as endorphins to prevent pain. A regular Yoga or Pilates routine creates a wonderful balance between stretching and relaxing. It needn’t be an extensive, formal class, either! Ask a physiotherapist for a few simple stretches that break up your sitting time in the office, for example, where being glued to a computer causes various stresses. In fact, take a look at our short, light-hearted video on it here:

Sleep: Just the word ‘sleep’ makes some people feel like they want to drift off! But you may be interested to know that, among many things, sleep facilitates the restoration of your muscles when you enter the Rapid Eye Movement stage. In other words, if you’re sleeping well, you’re also helping ward off back pain! For that reason, it’s worth making sure your sleep is of high quality – and that includes checking your mattress is right for you. Many people look to avoid back pain with a ‘memory foam’ mattress; you can also read our Info Sheet on how to get a good night’s sleep here:

Build Core Strength: We’re often asked what ‘core strength and stability’ are, and why they’re so essential to health. Well, the muscles of the torso are called ‘the core’ and they not only stabilise your spine, but also provide a solid foundation for the rest of your body’s movement. A good core-stability exercise programme allows you to develop the deep, functional fitness that’s essential for daily living – and injury prevention.

And at the risk of sounding over-zealous, if you’re looking for a health system that helps build core strength effectively, we say nothing comes close to matching Pilates. It’s a unique system of stretching and strengthening exercises that promises to make you feel great and condition your body fast and, in our opinion, vastly reduces the chances of your developing back problems. Take a look at this webpage to find out more about the specific ways Pilates can help you.

Golfers: Be Warned! Of all the ‘ordinary’ threats that exist to people’s backs, none is quite as severely underestimated as playing golf. We’re not kidding! The sheer force of repeatedly striking a ball whilst simultaneously twisting your body is a physiological nightmare! Read more about it this article:

Get a Check Up: People know they need to visit their dentist regularly. People know they need to exercise regularly. People even know they need to get their cars checked regularly… But for some reason, hardly anyone thinks to visit a physiotherapist regularly until they’re injured! When you make time to check your back a couple of times a year, though, you invest in preventing a certain amount of trouble. We invite you to visit us at Back in Shape and at least take advantage of our free 10 minute consultation!

Don’t Lift too Much: Did you know that there’s a piece of mathematical wizardry called the The NIOSH Lifting Equation that lets you calculate the risk to your back when lifting things? It looks like this:

RWL = LC × HM × VM × DM × AM × FM × CM

Now, we could try and decipher all that, or we could suggest that there’s a simpler way! Try gently shoving the object with your leg to see how easily it moves! If you’re in any doubt at all, get help. Better to have two people saying, “That was easy” than one saying, “That was stupid!”…

Lift Correctly: Always use a safe lifting method. Here are two ways to minimise risk… ‘The Knee Bend’ is for objects with which sheer weight is the issue; ‘The Golfer’s Crouch’ is for situations in which stooping for smaller objects is necessary.

The Knee Bend: If it seems safe to lift the thing – that’s to say that the object moves easily enough with a gentle leg shove – stand so that it’s between your legs. You want your feet in line with your shoulders. Now, keep your head up and your back straight as you squat down…

“Bend at the knees!” is often mocked as a trite thing to say in regard to lifting. But you know the other phrase: “Trite and TRUE”! So trite or not, “Bend at the knees” is the advice we give. Also, use your hands to take a good hold of the object, and make sure your hips, knees, and ankles take care of the actual bending. Also ensure the object stays near to your body and – indeed – put the object down in much the same way.

The Golfer’s Lift: Smaller, lighter objects like a putted golf ball or bag full of shopping still present a risk to your back because it’s simply not designed to bend in the way that many people imagine! Here’s how to handle smaller things…

Approach whatever it is that you want to pick up. Shift your body weight so that it’s all on one leg. Put the hand that’s on the opposite side of your body on a support – a desk, a fence, a chair back; whatever’s nearby and stable…

Now, keeping all your weight on that same leg, bend forward at the hip. You can bend a little at the knee, too, while reaching down with your free hand. Meanwhile, with your spine kept straight, lift the leg that has no weight on it up and out behind you to act as a counterbalance… So as your hand reaches the object, it would be fair to say that the rest of your body looks a little like the capital letter T! Grip the object and reverse the process to complete the pick up.

This lift is excellent not only for objects on the floor but also for taking stuff out of storage / rubbish bins, car boots and golf holes – hence its name! Golfers use their putters for support.

In next month’s Bob’s Bones, we’ll take a look at a few tips that help you cope with a bad back if it’s too late for prevention! Keep in mind, though, just how vital and delicate your back is: if you have any serious concerns about your back, please seek medical advice. Back in Shape offers a number of treatments and services to help back conditions, but please remember that we cannot be held responsible for action or inaction based in the information in our advice sheets… Besides which, we’d much rather see you in person!