Does this picture look familiar to you? It’s a problem that most of us have at some point in our lives; we cause too much stress to our backs whether it be carrying heavy bags, carrying heavy toddlers or sitting for long periods hunched over a desk. According to a recent article published by the Daily Mail, these are some alarming facts they discovered about back pain:
- 4 in 5 adults suffer from back pain at some point.
- 100,000 people see their GPs every day about musculoskeletal problems, mainly low back pain.
- Back pain is more likely to affect those aged 30-50.
- 1 Briton in 6 blames their back pain on their office chair.
- Almost 31 million days of work were lost last year because of back, neck and muscle problems.
- Back pain is rising in young adults due to a more sedentary lifestyle.
So what can you do?
Here’s 5 simple things you can do for better back health:
- Take a Pilates class every week. I tell a lot of my clients to do this because Pilates helps strengthen the core muscles. The core is made up of some of the back extensor muscles, transverse abdominals and pelvic floor muscles. When these muscles are equally balanced then the core is strong and helps support our movements and posture. Quite often the abdominals are weak which leads to the back muscles being over-used and causing back pain. Check out Body Control Pilates to find a mat class near you.
- If you sit at a desk and use a computer, there are some simple things you can do to keep your back, neck and shoulders freer from tension:
- Take regular breaks; stand up, walk around and stretch your legs.
- Make sure your work station whether at home or at the office is correct for your posture.
- Keep hydrated and keep a litre sized bottle of water on your desk and drink regularly from it. Once emptied, refill, aiming for 2 litres a day. Keeping the body hydrated will help stiff, sore muscles.
- Try the chair twist exercise to help mobilise and relax the spine: sit sideways on your chair with the chair back to your right. Feet are flat on the floor and knees in line with your hips. Grasp each side of the chair with a hand on each side and gently rotate your torso towards it, pushing the right hand away and pulling the left hand in towards you. Look over your right shoulder and hold the posture for 20-30 seconds, breathing freely. Repeat facing the other way. This is an easy exercise to do at work.
- Core strengthener: If you can’t get to a Pilates class, try this exercise at the office or at home while watching TV. Sit upright on your chair with the weight spread evenly on both feet on the floor. Without letting your pelvis tilt or your back slump, lift your right foot off the floor, bringing the thigh towards the torso and keeping the tummy muscles engaged. Pause, then lower and repeat with the left leg. Do this eight times on each side and don’t forget to breathe!
- Move your body! Even gentle exercise keeps your body toned, gets the blood pumping round the body and improves flexibility. A lot of back pain comes from being too sedentary so even a 30 minute walk everyday will help the body stay healthy.
P.S. Get yourself a regular massage too! There’s nothing like a good massage to really get into those tight shoulders and loosen up the back and neck.
Thank you to Sam Murphy at The Guardian for chair twist and core strengthener exercises.