Back pain can affect people of all ages. The best advice for everyone, whatever their age, is to keep fit, active and eat well. Back pain will often get better of its own accord, however, if symptoms persist for more than a couple of days it is better to seek advice from your osteopath or GP. The longer pain is left untreated, the longer it will take to recover.
So what do you do if you suffer from reoccurring back pain? Here are our top five tips to help keep you fighting fit and avoid future problems…
There are many causes of back pain, an injury might be responsible but it often is a consequence of day-to-day activities such as poor posture, looking down at our phones, bending or reaching or a combination of these, along with inactivity resulting in stiffness and poor flexibility. Many jobs involve repetitive movements leading to overuse and repetitive strain injuries.
Symptoms may take months, even years to develop, increasing gradually until pain hinders on everyday activities. Besides, the spine was not designed for sitting in front of a computer or behind the wheel of a car for long hours! A surprising number of problems are caused by doing little everyday things that you don’t think twice about.
Work on creating strength in the muscles. This will help stabilise and protect the joints from being strained by those everyday abuses.
Physical therapy can strengthen the muscles in your back to help relieve back pain or regain motion. Recent research shows that exercises designed to strengthen back muscles may be useful even if you don't have back pain yet... for example, in a recent study of 50 women between the ages of 58 and 75, those who performed back-strengthening exercises suffered fewer painful fractures of the vertebrae than women who didn't do the exercises.
So let's not forget those strengthening workouts! Most people have one side stronger than the other which is particularly evident when performing certain tasks, and the increased blood flow when exercising this area is great for reducing trigger point pain.
Your osteopath may have informed you about weak muscle groups so it’s important to improve the strength in those weaker areas, including your core, pelvic floor and gluteal region which will help to protect your spine.
Most cases of back pain have a postural component as part of the underlying problem. Recognising and understanding poor posture can play an important role in finding long-term relief. We believe good posture is as important as eating right, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep.
Your bones are properly aligned so your muscles, joints and ligaments can work correctly. This reduces wear and tear of joints and relieves stress, improves health and even enhances your appearance.
Try and focus on maintaining good posture in three key areas: standing, sitting and sleeping. When sitting, try not to slouch; when sleeping keep your spine supported; and when standing try and keep your weight evenly distributed – do not lean on one leg as this can encourage curvature in the spine.
Being overweight and leading a sedentary lifestyle will put unnecessary additional stress onto the spine and joints and will increase the likelihood of advanced wear and tear in your spine.
It also makes exercising much easier and will make you feel much better within yourself in general, and much less tired during the day.
Altering eating habits takes time, so start by increasing your amount of vegetable intake and cut back on starchy carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and potatoes. Even simply cutting out snacks in between meals can make a huge difference.
When talking to our patients about how and why their back pain has developed, we often discover that it’s triggered by or worsened during times of high anxiety or stress. During stressful periods, people tend to tense and hold their posture differently, the back, neck and shoulders are common areas to be affected by this. It is just as important to look after your emotional health and wellbeing as your physical health.
Try to focus on what is causing you stress and see if you can make some adjustments to manage it. Exercise is a great stress buster, as it focuses our mind and releases chemicals which give us a natural high.
Mindfulness is also proving to be increasingly effective – try to look inwardly through meditation and learn to feel where your stress is sitting in the body. Also learn to relax individual muscles before you go to bed in order to try and prevent tight muscles when sleeping.
If there are deeper underlying issues that you need help with, don’t hesitate to seek out a good hypnotherapist or psychotherapist to help you.
At Not Just Backs, we will look at your body from head to toe, from the front and side to assess your individual issue. We will explain any obvious imbalances or day-to-day habits that may be causing your pain, and advise on what you need in terms of treatment and/or exercise to improve the alignment of your spine and ultimately reduce your back pain.
Please don’t hesitate to give us a call on 01722 512 043.