Back pain is the number one musculoskeletal complaint in the world. It is the second most common reason for individuals to present to their GP. It has been reported that up to 80% of the population will experience an episode of back pain at some stage in their life. Unfortunately, with all of the advances in modern medicine, the amount of people suffering remains unchanged.
Some have an acute episode that may be only a few hours or days old, whilst other have long term back pain that has been present for many, many years. Almost always this limits the person from doing what they want to do, whether that be work or play. Visiting a trained therapist is THE BEST way to combat back pain. However, keeping this in mind, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of back pain.
Poor sitting posture can be a factor
If you sit for work looking at your work station ergonomics will help. Poor ergonomics make it harder for you to maintain better postures. A supportive chair and an optimal positioning of things like the screen, mouse and keyboard will go a long way to aiding with better posture. However even the very best sitting posture will cause repetitive stress over time, so having multiple variations of workstation is really the best. It is why sit-stand desks have become so popular. The ability to change between sitting and standing throughout the day seems to be the best way to beat the stress of poor posture.
Get adequate sleep
Sleep has been shown to have amazing restorative powers. Sleeping posture is thought to have an influence on our pain and whilst changing our habits can be hard, there are some tricks that can help relieve the stress on your body. Side sleepers can benefit from placing a pillow between their knees, whilst back sleepers often find putting a pillow underneath their legs can aid in reduction of their pain. Having the correct pillow for you to rest your head on is also vitally important. An inadequate pillow can lead to your head and neck spending all night in an elongated position, possibly causing undue stress on the muscles, joints and ligaments of those areas and making sleep difficult. The one thing that is commonly glossed over if you are waking up sore is the age and quality of their mattress. Mattresses will degrade over time and lose their ability to support your body. Whilst this is an expensive purchase in one’s life, remember that you spend a third of your life in it so it’s quite an important investment in your health.
Lifting techniques are important
Poor lifting technique will increase the stress and load on the muscles, joint and ligaments in your back. Doing this repetitively over a period of time will increase the likelihood of injury. Make sure you understand and adopt a good lifting technique because adequate positioning, strength and flexibility may help reduce the risk of injury.
Maintaining good physical conditioning is important. Backs can be predisposed to injury by a lack of activity and a sudden increase in activity. Exercise is considered one of the most important ways to maintain back health and has been shown to be one of the best ways to reduce long term back pain. Our sedentary lifestyles cause our muscles to weaken and thus this decrease in strength means our body struggles to tolerate the stress and strain of everyday life. Physical activity provides the stimulus required to counteract our sedentary lifestyles, helping makes us not only stronger but has been shown to have a positive effect on our mental state.
Treatment - Massage and manual therapy
Manual therapy is the best option to reduce back pain. Massage will increase blood flow to the muscles and connective tissue, which will promote healing. It will help strengthen, stretch and mobilise tense tissue, aiding in relaxation of the area.