How common is back pain?
Although as a chiropractor I treat the whole of the body (with or without symptoms), back pain is by far the most likely reason for someone to seek my care. And a lot of people suffer with it: a recent report published by Arthritis Research UK, found that back pain affects 10 million people in England and Scotland alone. That’s 1 in 6! And disability due to back pain has risen by more than 50% since 1990.
Why is Back Pain On The Rise?
In general, many of us are spending more time being sedentary, whether that’s sat at a desk, watching TV or using tablets in the evening. Research shows us that this lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for lots of health concerns, including back pain.
I am also seeing more and more cases of back and neck pain amongst a much younger age group, which is a sign of how our lifestyles are changing. With young people particularly, it’s important to remember that their bones and skeletons are still developing. This means that habitual behaviour, like bending your head over your phone, is more likely to lead to postural issues later on.
What Can We Do To Prevent It?
This Back Care Awareness Week, I want to shine a light on the easy steps people can take to improve their back health and mobility, whatever your age. It’s not about drastically changing your routine, or never using a device again, it’s about incorporating simple steps into your day to day routine to break up the periods of sitting or being still. We’re often sold technology on the basis that it will make our lives easier, but it’s important to remember that a lot of the tech we have in our home encourages to stay still, so the key thing is to bring movement and balance into your day.
Regularly changing posture and remaining seated for no longer than 30 minutes at a time are just a couple of the simple ways to prevent or reduce pressure on the back. Research by Arthritis UK also proves that physical activity can reduce the risk of developing join and back pain by 25%; a claim supported by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA), with 68% of its members believing that exercise is the single most important element for maintaining good back health.
Top tips for better back health
With devices and new technologies now a staple in both homes and workplaces, I’ve shared the British Chiropractic Association’s top tips for keeping mobile and your back healthy
1. Sit up
If you’re watching TV or using a computer or mobile device for a prolonged period of time, make sure you are sitting comfortably with your back supported in the base of the chair. Sitting with your head forward adds strain on your neck and back, so also make sure that you are sitting with your head directly over your body.
2. Get Moving
You back loves to stay active, so try and move around every 20-30 minutes, whether at home or at work (an easy trick is to stand up every time you’re on the phone). Being active is also a great way to keep back pain at bay, but don’t be tempted to go straight in, full throttle with high endurance-based activities, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while. You can gradually build up your exercise load with swimming, walking or yoga which can be less demanding on your body, while still keeping you physically active.
3. Check your workspace
If your job primarily involves sitting at a desk and staring at a computer for hours at a time, make sure your desk is set up to support a comfortable position. This is different for everyone so if you don’t feel comfortable in your current set up, try altering the height of your chair or screen.
4. Straighten Up!
The BCA has created a programme of three-minute exercises, Straighten Up UK, which can be slotted in to your daily schedule to help prevent back pain by promoting movement, balance, strength and flexibility in the spine.