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Tips for protecting your back
Tips for protecting your back

There are many activities you can pursue with back pain. Whatever you decide to do, start at your own pace and gradually build up the amount you do. Many people prefer to start a new activity with a friend for encouragement and moral support; others may prefer to exercise at home. Choose what suits you.

Here are a few suggestions of activities that some people with back pain have enjoyed and found benefit from:

  • Hydrotherapy (exercising in a warm water)
  • Swimming is generally excellent for people with back pain, although some people find the kicking action of breaststroke uncomfortable. Also, if you try to keep your face out of the water, this can strain your neck. For this reason breaststroke may be best avoided. Try swimming on your back, with a float held across your chest if need be.
  • Aquaerobics can be great fun and a good way to exercise your body with the support of the water.
  • Floatation Therapy. Floating on warm, salted water in a restful, noise- and light-free environment has relaxing effects and is usually comfortable even for those whose back hurts when it touches any surface.
  • Walking is usually one of the best forms of exercise. Choose comfortable shoes with low heels and cushioned soles, start on flat ground as this is easier than rough or hilly areas. Start with a short walk and gradually build up the distance – pace yourself.
  • Exercise bike. When your back pain has settled, using an exercise bike is a good way of getting fit. Keep the handle bars upright and the saddle high (to keep you sitting upright), start gradually and build up.
  • Yoga. Part of the practice of yoga involves various »postures« that gently stretch the soft tissues. Great emphasis is placed on breathing techniques.These postures aim to improve flexibility, strength, circulation and well-being, and reduce stress.
  • Tai chi. An ancient Chinese exercise system that involves a series of continuous, purposeful movements, performed slowly and gracefully. It combines physical, mental and spiritual aspects to gain muscular control of the body, whilst circulating the energy of life (»chi«) through the body.

The Alexander Technique is a system of body awareness that is designed to improve posture and quality of movement. It aims to minimize the effort that is necessary to maintain good posture.

What else can you do?

Learning relaxation techniques could also help you. It is vitally important to relax as much as you ca. Learn to live with your discomfort, rather than fighting against it.
You may find a lumbar roll in the small of your back when sitting, or a pillow under your knees when lying on your back, will help you to get comfortable when listening to relaxation music, reading a book, or just resting.


Other ways of relaxing include aromatherapy and massage. A professional massage can be really helpful if you have muscle spasm, but be sure to tell your practitioner about your back pain first.
You may not feel like cooking or eating much but try to ensure that you are eating regular, balanced meals, to help your body function better. It is important to try and keep your weight in check if you have back pain.

Improve your posture

How we stand and sit is important and may greatly affect our ability to cope with back pain. Taking care over this will minimize a lot of stresses on your spine. Standing badly can stretch the spinal ligaments and cause aching and stiffness in your back. The following tips will help improve your posture:
Standing incorrectly will eventually lead to back pain. Stand upright with your head facing forwards, your back straight and avoid slouching. Stand with your weight evenly balanced on both feet, legs straight and your body upright with the natural curve of your spine.

Sitting correctly


Many chairs are poorly designed. Often the worst are low armchairs and easy chairs that look temptingly soft but hold your back in a rounded position, causing severe aching and stiffness. You will be most comfortable in an upright chair which supports your lower back, maintaining the normal slightly backward curve of the lumbar part of your spine. If necessary you can make your own lumbar support using a small cushion or a rolled-up towel, or put a back rest or lumbar roll behind the small of your back.

  • Keeping still in one position for a long time particularly in low soft armchairs is an important cause of aching and stiffness.

When sitting at a desk, ensure that you can sit upright with a support in the small of your back. The desk should be of sufficient height and with sufficient leg space so that you are close enough to sit upright and work comfortably. There should be enough room beneath the work surface so that you can get close to your work without having to bend forwards, and also to allow free movement of your legs and feet.

Lifting correctly

lifting correctly

Many back problems develop during lifting. Frequently this arises when load bearing is combined with bending forwards, and maybe also with a twist on the spine. Here are some practical tips that will help protect the back and reduce the risk of back trouble:

  • Too heavy object - The first priority when lifting is to decide whether the load is too heavy or bulky to move on your own. There are no hard and fast rules about the maximum weight that can be lifted safely. Much depends on the circumstances, the size, shape and weight of the object, and where it has to be moved to, and on your personal physical strength and health.
  • The object should be held close to your body - The strain on your spine is much greater if the object is held at arm’s length rather than close to your body. Get a firm grip with the palms of your hands and the roots of your fingers and thumbs, rather than with your fingers alone. Heavy objects should not be lifted above shoulder level as this produces tremendous strain on the spine. The same principles apply when putting things down as well as picking them up.

Sleeping correctly

sliping correctly

A lot of people get backache in bed. This is often because they have a poor quality mattress and base that sag under the weight of their body. Most of us sleep on our sides so sagging produces a sideways bend in the back that may lead to considerable aching and stiffness.

You can largely stop this happening by sleeping on a bed that does not sag so easily. The ideal bed is one with a firm, well-sprung mattress and base, although it does not need to be hard. In fact, it may be a mistake to buy a very firm hard bed in the belief that it is good for your back because it can be so uncomfortable that you don’t sleep well.

When you are choosing a bed, spend some time lying on it to ensure that it is firm but comfortable.

  • Correct posture – the mattress is firm enough to support the body while absorbing the impression of the body, so keeping the spine straight.

Poor posture – the mattress is either too soft or too firm. Too soft mattress makes the spine curved. Too many additional pillows beneath the head cause excessive spine curvature. If the mattress is too firm, all of the body lies on the mattress, distorting the naturally straight spine.

Adopting simple everyday measure such as keeping active and paying attention to the way you stand, sit and lift can help you prevent back pain.

Back Care School

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