Why we all need to be strengthening our backs

Hands up if you have ever suffered from a bad back? If your hand is raised, you’re not alone. The latest statistics released by The British Pain Society reports that eight million people in the UK suffer with chronic back pain that is moderate-to-severely disabling.

While the Trades Union Congress (TUC) reported that British businesses lose an estimated 4.9 million days to employee absenteeism through work-related back pain, with each affected employee taking an average of 19 days off work.

Back pain is clearly a problem. And it’s a problem The British Pain Society believe costs the UK economy in the region of £10billion per year. So how can we get to the root cause of this epidemic?

According to Osteopath Denise Callaghan, who has been working in the field for more than 20 years, there are a few avenues to explore.

  1. Exercise your back

People are exercising more than ever before. The global pandemic saw a shift in the wellbeing sector, with many turning towards exercise as a form of cathartic release from the stresses and strains of lockdown life. Yes, more people were running. Yes, more people were working out in their living rooms. And yes, more people were walking. But were more people exercising their back? We’re not so sure.

“Your back is like any other component in your body,” Denise says. “If you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s made up of a total of 40 muscles with 20 muscles pairs, one on each side of the body. Plus, according to researchers, exercise increases blood flow to the lower back area, which may reduce stiffness and speed up the healing process.”

Try these exercises:

  • Crunches: this can help to strengthen you back and stomach muscles.
  • Wall sits: this targets all the muscles in your posterior chain, which is great news for your back.
  • Pelvic tilts: this exercise can strength you lower abdominal muscles and stretch your lower back.
  1. Make sure you stretch

Along with exercise, we should also be stretching our backs to help ease away any aches and pains. Why? According to Harvard Health weak back and abdominal muscles can ‘cause or worsen’ low back pain.

Denise says: “You should aim to target the back, buttock and abdominal muscles. These muscles all support you while walking, sitting, standing and running. Plus, well-stretched muscles are less prone to injury. It’s a win-win.”

Try these stretches:

  • Bridges: this works your glutes which are one of the most important muscles in your body as they help to support your lower back.
  • Knee-to-chest stretches: this can help elongate your lower back relieving any tension.
  • Rotational stretches: this can relieve tension in your higher and lower back.
  1. Don’t forget about your posture

We’ve spoken before about the pros and cons of working from home. We all know how critical it is to have a good workstation set-up. But with a busy working day and a jam-packed schedule, sometimes our posture is the last thing on our minds.

Denise says: “I wanted to recap on what we should be doing to avoid and limit the damage that poor ergonomics and posture can have on the human anatomy.”

Here are some tips:

  • Invest in a good, ergonomic desk chair – and adjust the height so you can use your keyboard with your forearms straight and level with the floor.
  • Sit upright – your shoulders should be in line with your hips and your chin should be back – not jutting forward. Make sure your screen it is at eye level.
  • Take regular screen breaks – even if it’s just to go to the toilet or get up for a glass of water. Just make sure you reset your posture and seated position when you return.

An Osteopath has got your back (quite literally)

By practicing all of the above, you can keep your back in good, working order. However, if you are unable to ease your back pain, then Osteopathy could be the answer.

Denise says: “I work with electrotherapy, acupuncture, and manually to relieve pain and restore movement and function into the lower back area. Treatment may include manipulation, passive mobilisation of joints, and soft tissue massage.”

If you have got aches and pains in your back that you’d like to discuss, please do get in touch with Denise.

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