How to help protect against back pain

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Back pain affects over half a billion people at any one time, and most of us will experience it at some point in our lives. Whether from injury, everyday strain, or other condition, back pain can be debilitating and a day to day struggle. Thankfully most back pain isn’t serious, and normally clears up on its own in a matter of weeks or months.

Whether you’re sat a desk all day, love exercising in the gym, or work somewhere that involves heavy lifting, we’ve got some simple everyday tips so help protect against back pain.


What causes back pain?

Back pain can happen for all sorts of reasons, usually from straining or spraining a muscle, but often the cause isn’t obvious. Most back pain isn’t serious and will improve over time, but occasionally back pain can be caused by a slipped disc or sciatica, which are more serious conditions than can come with other symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or weakness.

If your back pain doesn’t go away on its own after a few weeks, or starts to get worse, you should speak to a doctor.


How to avoid back pain

Exercise at your desk

When you have a job that requires you to sit at a desk all day, it can put pressure on your spine if you don’t maintain good posture and have the right support. Make sure your office chair is adjusted to support your lower back, and that your knees sit just below your hips when your feet are flat on the floor.

A good exercise to do at your desk to keep your back flexible is the seated rotation:

1. Sit upright and as tall as you can in your chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor, and make sure your back isn’t resting against the chair.

2. Cross your arms on your chest in front of you and turn your upper torso as far as you can comfortably go in one direction.

3. Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side. You can pick a spot on the wall when you turn and see if you can increase the rotation over time.  


Lift things correctly

Handling heavy objects incorrectly is a leading cause of back injury both in the home and in the workplace. Most people think they know how to lift a heavy box without injuring themselves, yet many injuries still occur. Always follow these steps to protect your back against injury:

1. Plan your lift, and make sure you know where you’re going to put the heavy object down and that its clear and accessible.

2. Keep your back straight when lifting and balance the strain between your hips and your knees.

3. Hold the heavy object close to your waist to minimise the load on your back

4. Don’t twist or lean while carrying or lifting

5. Know your limit and only lift what you can reasonably manage​


Always warm up

Whether you’re going for a round of golf or getting ready to lift some weights, you should always warm up your back muscles just like you would your legs and arms. This should involve raising your temperature and blood flow with some light to moderate movement, along with stretching exercises.

Perform back extensions to help stretch your back and improve flexibility:

1. Lie on your front, resting on your forearms and keeping your neck straight.

2. Keep your hips on the floor and arch your back up by pushing down on your hands

3. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, feeling the stretch in your stomach muscles. Repeat 8 to 10 times.


Be active

No matter what your job or your exercise levels, it’s generally good advice to stay as active as possible to promote back health and reduce the risk of developing problems. This can be as simple as avoiding long periods of sitting if you can, and spending time each day doing light to moderate exercise.

Whether you’re at home or at work, there are a few simple steps you can take to be more active:

1. If you’re sat at a desk all day, get up and walk around or just shift your sitting posture as often as possible

2. Walk as much as possible. Leave the car at home for short journeys, and plan walks for the weekend. Joining a walking group can help to give you the motivation.

3. Take the stairs where possible.

4. Gardening, cleaning, and other household activities can help to increase your exercise levels while still being productive and without needing to pay for a gym.

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