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Top Tips For Keeping a Healthy Back

Introduction

This advice is aimed at people who have experience of back and neck pain and want to know what they can do to minimise recurrence and keep themselves well. Please remember this is general advice. We strongly recommend that if you are experiencing back or neck pain you speak to your GP or visit a practitioner from a related musculoskeletal discipline. You can contact us to make an appointment at The New Surgery.

Waking Up

Begin your morning gently. When you wake up in the morning give your spine time to wake up too. A simple way to ease your back into the morning is to follow this gentle exercise:

Lying on your back on your bed, gently squeeze one knee to your chest; hold it for a count of 10. Gently return it to the bed and do the same exercise with your other knee. Repeat 3 times on each side.

When you put your socks and shoes on in the morning bring your foot up to you. Bend your knee rather then crouch forward.

Driving

Use the headrest in your car to ease the workload on your neck muscles, and prevent whiplash in case of an accident. The top of the headrest should line up with the top of your ears.

Avoid having your seat too far forward or too far back. When you reach forward your wrists should comfortably rest on the top of the steering wheel. When you move your hands to the "10 – 2" position, your arms will be nice and relaxed.

Take regular breaks during long drives. Get out of the car and move around. Breaks are not only good for your concentration; they are great for your back.

And remember – getting out of a Landover is easier then getting out of a Porsche! Sometimes in life you just have to be practical.

Sitting

Don't be a slouch. Posture is really important for maintaining a healthy back and neck. Where possible sit with a tall spine. Imagine that you have a piece of string from the crown of your head gently pulling you toward the ceiling.

If you are working at a desk or on a computer have a seat with a backrest and if possible a foot rest. Make sure that your hips are above your knees.

Move your seat close to the desk and sit face on so you are not at an angle. When you relax your hands on your desk you should easily be able to reach your keyboard, mouse and telephone.

Your monitor should be at eye level. If you are using a laptop consider using a laptop stand and a plug in keyboard and mouse.

If you are sitting for long periods of time, make sure you frequently change position.

Keeping Active

It may feel counterintuitive to exercise when you are either experiencing back or neck pain or you are prone to back and neck pain, but exercise is vital to helping you to maintain a healthy back. Toned core muscles help your body to support your back much more effectively. Please note that any gym type exercise is not recommended during the acute phase of low back injury (when your injury is at its most inflamed and painful) but walking gently and keeping mobile will help.

If you haven't exercised for a long time begin slowly and gently, and if necessary take advice from your osteopath, GP or other health practitioner.

Excellent exercise includes walking, swimming (avoid breast stroke as this can put a strain on your neck) or cycling. Just half an hour a day of increased exercise will lead to a healthier back.

At The New Surgery we are offering free taster sessions in yoga and tai chi. There is evidence that a regular yoga or tai chi practice is beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains including low back pain, depression and stress¹.

Losing Weight

If you are above your ideal weight, your muscles will have to work harder to help you accomplish everyday tasks. By reducing your weight you are reducing the strain on your spinal column and on your back muscles. Every pound you lose in weight is three pounds less in pressure. So if you are a stone over weight that is like you carrying a Dalmatian dog around with you.

Lifting

Bend your knees and hips and not your back. When lifting heavy objects hold it close to your centre rather than with outstretched arms. Avoid twisting.

Avoid Repetitive Tasks

The human body was not designed to repeat the same movement again and again. Don't spend too long on one task. If you are gardening for example, make sure you change your jobs frequently, every half-an-hour or so change what you are doing. So half-an-hour of grass cutting followed by half-an-hour of pruning.

¹ Taken from NHS Choices

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