Tips for a comfortable, resilient back
- Become aware of what you are doing with your back. You can then notice the signs that your back is about to “go” and take preventative action before it does. A lot of back discomfort can be prevented by recognising when your back is under pressure, and backing off.
- Pace yourself. Build up to heavy activity (gardening/sport and exercise/manual work). Have regular breaks and give yourself sufficient recovery time.
- If life is getting tremendously hectic, take a few minutes’ time out to relax, a couple of times a day. Can you do less, not more? Back pain is often linked to a build up of frenetic activity, with the breathing and muscles getting progressively more tense. Can you avoid this cycle?
- If you feel your back is tightening or you recognise a familiar back pain coming on, sit down and relax, take 10-20 good deep breaths, stretch gently or go for a walk – whatever feels most beneficial at that time.
- Move regularly through the day. If in an office or car, find ways to walk around. E.g. park at far end of car park and walk to office, loo break, make tea etc, stop off on long car journeys and stretch and walk a little.
- Seek advice from a musculoskeletal health professional on regular stretches and movements tailored for you specifically, that will help keep your back moving freely and comfortably. Then find a way of fitting them into your life that makes them achievable.
- Seek advice on sitting well at your desk if in an office and consider your posture when on a mobile device. Look around and you’ll notice how people slump when using their ipad or mobile phone.
- Walking is a great preventative and rehabilitative exercise. Walk swinging your arms, without a bag or using a phone as you walk. By swinging your arms, you rotate your torso and this eases the load on your lower back. Walking also gently mobilises your entire spine, stretching it and strengthening it with each step. Do not underestimate the power of a regular, 20-30 minute arm-swinging, long-striding walk.
- Ladies – choose flats when you can, and shoes that allow your toes to spread out and be used fully. This will ensure that your back is in a comfortable, ergonomic position for movement.
- If you have to carry a bag, choose a cross-body back or rucksack. Don’t carry the kitchen sink, just what you need.
- Find someone you trust who can help you if you feel your back is getting sore to an extent that you can’t manage it yourself.
What to do if your back gets sore:
- Don’t panic. Most back pain eases off with time and is not indicative of a severe problem.
- The back muscles can spasm quite easily when you hurt your back. This can be frightening but actually it’s absolutely normal and means that your body’s response mechanism to protect your spinal cord is working perfectly. So although it’s unpleasant, it’s a good thing.
- The best thing to do in this situation is to take things easy for a while, avoid lifting, heavy manual work and intense activity, but keep moving. If you can, walk gently then stride out progressively when you walk, swinging the arms. Gentle movement and relaxed breathing signal to your nervous system that the body is not under attack, and that it can relax the muscle spasms as your spinal cord is safe.
- Do not be frightened to move, unless in complete agony. If you are in agony, find a comfortable position, relax, and breathe deeply 10-20 breaths every now and again, to signal to your nervous system that everything is ok. Then, as pain eases, move around gently and take some gentle walks as soon as it’s comfortable.
- If you are really concerned about the level of pain, have a lot of leg pain, pins and needles, or any other extreme symptoms, consult your GP.