Back pain is the most common condition seen in physiotherapy clinics up and down the country. Approximately a third of all our treatments are related to back pain. So here we give our top tips to help prevent back pain.
Kate discusses prevention in our video here and read on for more detailed advice.
So what can we do to prevent it happening?
- Keep Active
Our backs are resilient structures but they do need looking after in the same way our hearts and lungs do and regular exercise helps to maintain joint flexibility and muscle strength. As physios we are often asked what sort of exercise is best and the answer is – whatever you enjoy. There are so many different types of activity that there is bound to be something you enjoy! Golf, bowling, netball, cycling, walking, running, tennis, gardening, football, gym, ice skating, Zumba to name but a few!
However, some form of stretches and strengthening exercises on top of cardio-vascular exercise is also beneficial. This may be doing some small squats in your living room, heel raises whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, standing on one leg whilst cleaning your teeth, a few press ups against the wall whilst waiting for your children to brush their teeth! Alternatively, Tai Chi, pilates and yoga have good evidence for their effectiveness in keeping our bodies strong.
Not everyone likes exercise though. So don’t think if it as exercise, think of it as activity! It may be walking up and down your stairs more often, rather than piling everything at the bottom of the stairs to take up all in one go, it could be parking further away in the car park from the supermarket, get off the bus one stop earlier, using the stairs rather than the escalotoe. Little things add up and make quite a difference and you’ll be surprised how much better you feel at being able to play with the grandchildren for example.
- Diet and hydration
Very important for the health of our tissues. You can see it in your skin if your diet is poor or you are dehydrated – the tissue that makes up your skin also makes up your tissues inside that we don’t see – collagen. Good nutrition is vital for the benefit of collagen.
- Good sleep patterns
Sleep is when our body recovers from the day to day stresses and strains. Without it on a regular basis our body starts each day in a slightly less restored position. See our blog post on sleep for more details and tips.
- Posture and work station set up
It is not necessary to sit upright all the time. Sometimes a good slouch is what we need. But sometimes! Supported, upright posture brings our muscles into the optimum position for them to work well and fatigue less quickly. A good work station set up is hugely beneficial for this – however, not as beneficial as regular movement away from that sitting position. It is not the posture persay that can be a causative factor of back pain but being in a static position for prolonged periods of time. Move around regularly – every half an hour – even if it’s just a stand up and stretch; this helps productivity and concentration too! See our downloadable resource on stretches you can easily do at work and click for our video on posture and desk set up or download a self checklist.
If you are working from home regularly, or maybe need to due to circumstances, such as the Covid-a9 lockdown, there are further tips in Kate’s blog post.
- Avoid Repetitive Movements
Overloading one area can lead to increased stress of certain tissues and eventually cause pain and restricted function. Again, change in posture, change in task and correct ergonomics can help prevent this. This includes correct lifting technique – not just at work but at home when lifting the shopping or getting your toddler out of their car seat.
Whatever you like to do to switch off, do it! So much evidence has proven that stress, anxiety, low in mood and fatigue are huge predisposing factors to pain in any location as well as increasing intensity of pain we are suffering. Make sure you take time out to look after yourself. Mindfulness can be a brilliant activity to help with this.
- Correct management of early onset pain
Take it as a warning sign but don’t be afraid of pain. See our next blog on management of acute back pain.
As ever, for more advice or any concerns you have do get in touch with us.