Keeping your back healthy is incredibly important. A healthy back will be free from pain. It will also be strong enough to resist the stresses and strains it experiences as you go about your day to day activities, meaning injury is less likely.
In contrast, an unhealthy back can cause pain throughout your body. It can hinder your daily activities and have a severe effect on your mental health too. With this in mind, we need to work to prevent injury and to keep our spines healthy.
Here are seven tips for maintaining a healthy back:
The body position you maintain throughout the day can have a significant impact on your back. To achieve an ideal posture, you shouldn’t be arching or rounding your back, your shoulders should be down, and your weight should be evenly distributed across both the right- and left-hand sides of your body. Desk jobs are renowned for encouraging poor posture. Make sure your desk and chair are adjustable and positioned correctly to avoid putting unnecessary strain on your spine.
Pilates is a gentle form of exercise designed to release tension in the muscles and build strength. Also, following on from the previous point, it helps you to improve your posture. Through a series of exercises, you encourage your muscles to work individually and pull their own weight, meaning neither your back nor any other body part is doing more than its fair share. You also work on your core – the important band of muscles around your abdomen and lower back. Building a pilates exercise class into your weekly schedule can help to keep your back healthy.
Regular physiotherapy sessions will nip any back health issues in the bud. As well as helping to combat existing problems, physiotherapy can help your back to withstand future stresses and strains. A physiotherapy session usually consists of manual therapy, a type of massage that locates and encourages movement in problematic areas of the body. Your physiotherapist is also likely to give you some simple exercises to do at home. They can advise on ways to adjust your daily activities to better promote good back health.
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Lift and Carry Properly
If you regularly lift heavy objects, you could be putting your back at risk. You should understand how to lift safely – bending your knees and keeping your back straight – to avoid injury. Also, consider how you carry heavy objects. If you’re carrying shopping bags, try to balance out the load between your two sides. And if you regularly carry heavy loads, consider using a two-strap backpack fitted close to your body. This way you can spread the load more evenly and reduce strain on your back.
Research is still being conducted into the link between smoking and back pain. However, it is thought that smoking reduces the supply of blood to your spine, specifically the discs between the vertebrae. Without the necessary blood supply, these discs may start to degenerate leaving you with chronic back pain. If you want to quit smoking talk to your doctor or search online for local support. You may also find it useful to use nicotine products such as patches or chewing gum. E-cigarettes are not recommended because further research is needed on the risks they pose and whether they do, in fact, help smokers to quit.
Excess weight can put a huge strain on your back. While losing weight is easier said than done, it’s incredibly important to maintain good back health. Take simple steps to make a change. Climb the stairs rather than taking the lift, use your lunch break to walk around the block, try a new exercise class and say no to that extra bar of chocolate. Group weight loss classes are another popular way to lose a few pounds – with the support of your peers your motivation is much less likely to wane.
Stress is thought to be a major cause of back pain with more and more studies suggesting a link between our emotional and physical health. Working demanding jobs and living busy lives, we can’t expect to get through every day free from stress. However, we need to make sure we plan time for relaxation. A trip to the cinema, a walk in the countryside or just catch up with friends – schedule plenty of downtime into your week to keep stress at bay. Your back is likely to feel the benefit.
There are plenty of things you can do to protect your back. Building strength, encouraging movement and avoiding high-risk activities can all help. However, if you’re experiencing long-term or particularly intense pain, seek out medical advice.
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