With stress and long working hours now the norm, lower back pain (LBP) is a common problem. These easy lifestyle changes can work wonders.
Roughly 80% of people experience LBP at some point – and for many, it becomes a chronic condition. In most cases, the problem’s caused by everyday activities, such as leaning over a keyboard for hours or lifting heavy shopping bags incorrectly. Fortunately, with a few tweaks to your daily routine, you can reduce the effects of life on your back.
1. Strengthen your back muscles
LBP predominantly occurs as a result of inactivity. Many of us spend most of our daytime hours desk-bound, only to collapse onto the couch when we get home. This means our back muscles aren’t getting the exercise they need to provide proper support, leaving our spines at risk of degeneration, as they have to do all the hard work. Exercise for LBP not only strengthens the muscles around your spine, but also encourages the circulation of fluid that lubricates your joints, lowering your risk of injuring your back by twisting or turning. Set aside time in the morning or evening for
some gentle exercise. You don’t have to become a full-on gym bunny: even 15 minutes of exercise at home every day can make a difference.
2. Perfect your posture
After a few hours of typing, you might realise you’re uncomfortably hunched over your keyboard and suddenly feel the tightness in your neck and shoulders.
Sitting with bad posture for prolonged periods is a major cause of LBP, as it distorts the natural curves of your back. Try to remind yourself throughout the day to sit back and relax your shoulders, so your entire back is in full contact with your seat. There are helpful devices you can use at the office, such as posture training harnesses which slip over your shoulders to prevent you from slumping forward, portable supporting backrests which can be attached to your chair and standing desks.
3. Limber up
Regular stretching can help promote flexibility, relieve tension and reduce the risk of back injury from lifting or twisting. Make a habit of stretching your muscles before work, exercising, going to bed or even during your lunch break.
4. Try to reduce your stress levels
Busy lives usually involve long hours at work, making sure the kids are cared for, shopping for groceries and getting the house in order. There’s always something to do – but it’s essential to make time to check in with yourself and address your stress levels. Stress contributes to LBP by causing constant tension in your muscles, which can result in various aches and pains. Find something that works for you, whether it’s guided meditation in the morning, a run in the evening or some deep breathing exercises throughout the day.
5. Adjust your sleeping position
Medium to firm mattresses are best, as soft mattresses can affect your back’s alignment. The best position for dealing with LBP is on your side, so try to avoid sleeping flat on your back or stomach. If you can’t get comfortable on your side, make sure there’s a pillow under your lower abdomen to support your lower back, as well as a firm, good-quality pillow to support your neck and head correctly. A good night’s rest also helps relieve stress.
6. Lift correctly
We’ve all loaded our arms with heavy shopping bags and staggered from the car to the front door to avoid making repeat trips. For the sake of your back, however, get the kids to help you. If you do have to lift a heavy object, do so correctly to minimise the impact on your back: bend at the knees, stand close to the item, lift slowly and avoid twisting your core.
FEATURE: CAITLIN GENG PHOTO: FOTOLIA.COM
The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis and treatment. Always consult your GP or a medical specialist for specific information regarding your health.