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Back Care Tips

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Lower back pain is a prevalent condition that affects millions of people around the world and virtually everyone has had lower back pain at some point in their lives.  The best approach to managing back pain is to prevent it from happening in the first place.  Here we cover some simple things you can do to prevent and manage back pain.

To Rest Or Not To Rest ..... ?


Best rest for a a newly injured back, in which there is severe pain, is invaluable.  This should be done for a limited period only.  Once the pain subsides, you should start getting your back moving once again, because prolonged immobilization leads to muscle stiffness and weakness, both of which are bad for the back.

How to do "bed rest" properly?

backpainLie in bed on your back with several pillows under your legs, so that your hips and knees are virtually at right angles.  Keeping your legs flexed in this way keeps your lumbar muscles relaxed.  Try to intersperse resting in bed with gentle "knee rocking" exercises every once in a while.

Another way to switch off the muscles spasm and relax a sore back is to lie on the floor (or yoga mat if you like), with your hips and knees bent at right angles.  Rest your calf muscles on a stool of the appropriate height.  If you can't find a suitable stool to rest your legs on, you may use several pillows stacked up under your knees.  Whilst you won't quite be getting the same degree of bend at the hips and knees, you will still be allowing your lower back muscles to relax in this position.

If you find sleeping in this position difficult, try sleeping on your side curled up like a prawn.  Have a pillow or bolster between your knees and remember to keep your hips and knees bent.

Heat


Gentle heat helps with easing out back stiffness and improves blood flow to aid in the healing process.  If you get some soreness in your back at the end of the day, try lying on a heat pack for 20 minutes (with our hips and knees bent, as described earlier).  Again, always rock your knees for several minutes after you have been immobile.

Medication


The correct medication can work wonders for an acutely painful back.  Whilst some may have concerns about taking pain-killers, they can be indeed be useful and seen as part of the treatment process - a way of releasing muscle spasm, so that you can move on to the stretching and strength building exercises for your back.

Paracetamol, muscle relaxants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and other pain-killers may be used for pain-relief.  Speak to your pharmacist or doctor for advise on the appropriate medication to use.

Sitting Right


Our modern way of sitting on chairs isn't ideal of our backs.  In the past, people used to squat, which is the natural way of pulling out or decompressing the segments of the lower spine.  Sitting on a chair, however, has the opposite effect.  It loads weight through the spine, compresses the lumbar segments and squeezes out fluid from the intervertebral discs.  It is especially bad if you are sitting in a chair for extended periods of time, worse still, if in one with poor ergonomic design.

The Correct Sitting Posture

The aim is to keep a natural lumbar hollow and preserve a gentle, "S" shaped bend throughout the spine, head over the hips, with effortless and balanced contraction of the abdominal and back muscles.  All three normal back curves should be present while sitting.

• Don't slouch.  Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back.  Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair.

• Your chair should be of the correct height such that your knees are bent at right angles with your feet flat on the floor.   Keep your knees even with or slightly higher than your hips. (use a foot rest if necessary).  Your legs should not be crossed.

• Try to avoid sitting in the same position for more than 30 minutes.  Make it a rule never to sit for longer than 30 minutes without a major shift in position (this means standing up, squating, side-bending left to right in your chair, humping and hollowing your lower back, stretching your back skyward etc).

• At work, adjust your chair height and work station so you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up at you. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.

• When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don't twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.

Do Squats


Squatting is the spine's natural decompressor.  This is especially so if you squat whilst pulling in your tummy and humping out your lower back.  Squatting opens up the back of the spinal segments and is a wonder antidote to the compression that your spine suffers through prolonged hours of sitting and standing.

How To Squat ... Properly

1. Stand with your feet together and hold on to something secure, such as a horizontal bar, sink or ledge.

2. With you feet together and your heels flat on the ground, bend at your knees fully and open them as wide apart as you can.

3. Keep your head down and squat as low as you can with your bottom reaching close to, but not touching the floor.

4. Stretch your spine by pulling in your tummy muscles and trying to round your spine from the base of your skull to your bottom.

5. In this position, lean back and gently bounce your bottom closer to the floor.  You should be able to feel your spine lengthening as you do this.

6. Continue for about 30 seconds, then stand up by pushing up through your thighs whilst keeping your tummy in.

7. Repeat several times.


Further Reading

 
The article above is meant to provide general information and does not replace a doctor's consultation.
Please see your doctor for professional advice.