Back pain affects up to 1 in 4 of the Australian population on any one day and is one of our most common health conditions. It can happen at any age and last days or even years.
Here are our top ten tips to keep your back as healthy as possible:
Exercise regularly – While walking, swimming, pilates and yoga are all excellent ways to strengthen your back and improve flexibility, any activity is good for you. Choose something that you enjoy to help you maintain your physical activity long term.
Keep active and avoid long periods of bed rest – Even when you have pain, gentle movement will help settle your back and strengthen your muscles. Your physiotherapist can tailor an exercise program to suit your fitness level and give you advice on where to start.
Learn correct lifting technique – Correct lifting can help prevent injury and avoid back pain.
- When lifting a heavy object position your body directly in front of it to lift and turn with your feet, not your back.
- Carry the object close to your body.
- Bend your knees, using your legs – not your back – to bear the weight.
Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle – Carrying excess body weight can put additional pressure on your muscles and joints, which can lead to pain. Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle will help you achieve a healthy weight.
- Enjoy a wide variety of foods from the main dietary food groups every day.
- Limit saturated fat, added salt and sugars, and alcohol intake.
Don’t Slouch – Slouching doesn’t necessarily cause discomfort, but over time it can place strain on muscles and soft tissue.
- Don’t let your head slump forward
- Keep your shoulders relaxed, not hunched
- Don’t cross your legs
- When standing, distribute your weight evenly on both legs.
Quit Smoking – Smoking can reduce the blood supply to discs between the vertebrate, which can lead to disc-degeneration. You can find information about the ways to quit smoking at icanquit.com.au
Take breaks when driving – Take regular breaks when driving long distances. A firm seat provides better support and a rolled-up towel behind your back at waist level can provide extra lumbar support.
Adapt your work environment – Tips for sitting at the computer:
- Use an upright chair that has good lumbar or back support
- Position your monitor so your head and shoulders are relaxed
- Keep your mouse close to your body
- Don’t cradle your phone between your head and your shoulder
- If your work is more manual and requires the use of tools:
- Avoid working where the floor is cluttered, uneven, wet or slippery
- Use long handled tools where possible
- Perform a variety of tasks, changing position frequently.
Learn techniques to help manage stress – Relaxation is a crucial part of easing the pain caused by muscle tension. While you cannot always avoid stress, you cna learn to reduce and manage it. Learn to identify the signs of stress, identify its source, connect with friends and family who care, and make time for relaxation. Simple breathing exercises can also help. Try breathing in through your nose while counting slowly to five, then breathing out to five. Keep doing this for three to five minutes.
Seek a medical opinion – Most back pain disappears within days of weeks. If your pain persists, gets worse or you experience any other symptoms (like feeling unwell), see your GP or other qualified healthcare providers.
Myth #1 – Moving will make my back pain worse
Fact – It is essential to keep moving. Muscles that are in spasm, due to pain, relax when gently moved or stretched. Gradually increase how much you are doing, and stay on the move.
Myth #2 – A scan will show me exactly what is wrong
Fact – There is a growing body of research that shows that not only do results of scans correlate poorly with symptoms in people with back pain, but also that most people without back pain have changes on scans that do not cause any symptoms at all.
Myth #3 – Pain equals damage
Fact – Recent research has changed our thinking of pain. Level of pain has little relationship with damage to the spine and more to do with your unconscious and conscious interpretation of the level of threat the pain represents.
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