BACK CARE AWARENESS WEEK 2nd to 6th October 2017
Why should we care about our backs?
It’s simple really. The spine is what keeps us upright. To look after our spine is to help look after our whole body and well being. It is also about the economy. Back pain is a large cause of sick absence from work. Loss of productivity due to back pain at work costs the UK economy an estimated £15 billion a year.
80% of the UK population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. It is the most common condition we treat at North Yorkshire Physiotherapy.
Why is this?
My belief is it is the changes in society. We now travel much further to work than we used to. Consequently we are sitting to commute rather than walking or cycling. The majority of workers are desk bound as we have much more of a service sector than manual. One study suggested we sit for 14 hours a day. In fact, with the advent of technology one study presented 9 new postures due to laptops, tablets and smart phones. These all berate the spine.
Most acute back pains and any associated leg pain (known as sciatica) will settle in 6-12 weeks without any ongoing issues.
Pain that continues beyond this time frame, known as persistent pain, is more complicated. It can be affected due to fear of movement, decreased general fitness and emotional factors and fatigue. For more information on this listen to the interview by Kate on Radio Tees from September 29th.
How do we care for our backs?
The biggest piece of advice I can give is regular exercise and activity. Recent studies have concluded that going to the gym 3 times a week is not enough to off-set the risk of heart disease and musculoskeletal disorders from sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day. They found that it is regular movement that helps.
So move away from your desk, from your sofa. Even if it is just a stand up and stretch in the opposite direction to the bent positions your back, arms and legs are taking up when sat. But when you are sat, consider your posture carefully. You should have a supported spine so you can lean back against a back rest with the lower curve in your back supported. Ensure your desk set up is correct for you. A link to the HSE website with a self checklist can be found here http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ck1.htm
Regular exercise is also vital – it is enjoyable, social, gets heart rate up, improves balance, co-ordination, flexibility, improves mood and feeling of well-being, decreases stress and depression, all of which can be causes of ongoing pain. Not only that but exercise can also help prevent problems in later life such as loss of muscle bulk (30% of muscle strength is lost before the age of 65), falls, osteoporosis and symptoms from osteoarthritis.
How do we manage acute back pain?
- Pain relief – pain killers, heat, cold, TENS machines – whatever works for you.
- Gentle movements – do not be afraid to move! Movement aids healing and not moving can be a cause of continued back pain. Bend, lean back, move sideways, move as normally as you can. Initially they will be small movements and they will gradually increase as the pain settles. Respect the pain but don’t fear it! Modified activity is important – do not take to your bed! Gentle exercise can help the body release its own natural pain killers, endorphins and encephalins.
- Relaxation – if you are under stress and strain your pain can be worse and relaxation, particularly avoiding being anxious about your pain, can help the healing process. Be reassured that your pain is very likely to settle and any stresses in your life can be a causative factor.
- Physiotherapy – a physiotherapist can help show you the right stretches to do and correct your movement patterns. They can give advice on why you may have suffered from back pain and how to avoid it happening again or what to do if it does happen again. Physiotherapists are experts in movements and have manual therapy skills that can facilitate the body to move well again as well as the knowledge and understanding of emotional and psychological factors that can influence our pain.
How do we manage long standing back pain?
Ongoing pain can be due to changes in the central nervous system – we can re-train those changes with graded exercise, stretches and improved movement patterns. Physiotherapists can guide you and educate you through this with occasional manual facilitation to remind the nervous system of normal tissue movements.
At North Yorkshire Physiotherapy we are specialists in treating back pain, both acute and persistent. Alan and Kate have had post-graduate training in managing persistent pain and we have all attended post graduate courses on managing back pain. We also hold physio-led weekly back exercise classes for those who need guidance to return to regular exercise when suffering from back pain.
For more information, please see our other pages on our website or give us a call on 01642 205975
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