(Tips to make you sit up and take notice)
Christmas Day, Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day will be next. Come rain or shine, the boys and girls at Royal Mail do a brilliant job, delivering cards to all the special people in our lives.
Before those lightweight trolleys, the postman’s (and postwoman’s) lot was not a happy one. When snail mail was the norm (Teresa can remember that far back, even if Dom can’t!), the post bag was quite literally a pain in the neck.
And a real pain in the back too! Cushioned with discs and supported by muscles and ligaments, this stack of 24 vertebrae bones is as strong as it is flexible - and more likely to stay that way, with a bit of loving care.
For the humble postie, back pain and shoulder spasms are pretty much a thing of the past now. But you ladies, with your oversized and overfilled handbags (guys everywhere, rolling their eyes) – have you learnt nothing?
Keep the weight under 10% of your body weight, and your favourite Louis Vuitton designer tote won’t ruin your posture or damage your spine. And study the pics below, for tips on how NOT to stand - or sit, for that matter.
Handbags aside, back health is down to good posture, right? Well, physiotherapists at the Qatar Sports’ Spine Centre disagree: focus on staying healthy - if stress drops, and muscle tension with it, a healthy flexible back will follow.
And if the ‘shoulders back, chest out, and stomach in’ approach doesn’t appeal, why not try a standing desk? Yep, no more slouching - although Australian researchers say there’s a higher risk of varicose veins. Mmm, some choice.
What happens if your job is half-sitting and half-standing? That’s a tricky one. According to The Jerusalem Post, a dentist recently won a court case, proving all that leaning over caused his chronic back pain … ouch!
So is there a right way to sit, stand AND bend? Stuart McGill, Canadian expert in spine biomechanics, reckons modern society has forgotten the art of hip hinging: when your back supports the body, not your legs, that spells trouble.
Sit up straight, stand up tall, hinge those hips. Anything else? Well, since you’re asking – ladies, cut down on the high heels! If you really knew the true cost of high fashion, you would spend less time in shoes like this …
Not exactly the height of fashion, but the body will try to balance itself while walking in unstable ‘rocker shoes’, thereby strengthening the back muscles. Sounds weird but makes sense, if you believe recent studies from Valencia.
If how we move and what we wear is crucial for spinal health, the likes of Usain Bolt need never worry about a dodgy back. Ohio experts think not: ignore core muscles, and even the best runner in the best shoes will feel the twinge.
Swap a mad dash for a casual stroll, and forget the sit-ups? Nope, sorry: think dentist, think golfer, think bad back. Rehab and drugs failed to fix Tiger, so he went under the knife. But would a six-pack really have solved his problem?
Maybe not. But most people can’t afford personal physios or private surgery. So for the likes of us, that means DIY prevention e.g. improve body posture and core muscles. And DIY cures, such as reusable compresses …
… and over-the-counter painkillers. A word of caution: a 40-year-old Liverpudlian, desperate to get rid of his crippling backache, topped up his prescription drugs with £600 of illegal pills – unfortunately he didn’t live to regret it.
If you’re up for something a bit more energetic, the NHS recommends these 5 gentle stretching exercises:
And for those who want to progress, from simple back stretches to complex pilates movements? Have a go at the roll over, guaranteed to ease those vertebrae back into line – it’s an advanced move, so watch how you go!
But if you’re not keen on pilates, choose an activity that you do enjoy. Walking, swimming, yoga – they’re ideal for all ages and all abilities. Add a few NHS-recommended stretches, and your back will love you forever!
For these ladies, 10 laps of the pool probably sound a lot more fun than say 10 minutes in traction. Dr Laskowski (Mayo Clinic) doubts the benefits of spinal decompression, but serious fans of the inversion table swear by it.
The technique looks quite scary, and the price sounds positively frightening at £3,299! How about a painless scan, followed by gentle high-speed tapping? Cutting edge NASA tech, for a fraction of the price - yes please!
For all you smokers, there is an option that’s gentle on the joints and the wallet – give up the ciggies! Your spine needs oxygen-rich blood (and lots of it) to stay healthy, and smoking ruins the quantity and quality of that blood.
Almost one quarter of 25-34 year olds are smokers, a bleak and costly prospect for future NHS back care. And if you don’t smoke? Nick Potter, osteopath to the celebs, reckons the secret to future-proofing your spine is staying active.
A pain in the back is a real pain in the … well, you get the message. Most people recover in a few weeks, with home rehab and a doctor’s prescription. Unfortunately others do not, and they’re forced to consider the surgical options.
Here at OSIM UK, we believe that prevention is always better than cure. Our best advice: sit up straight and stand up tall, stay flexible and stay active. And if you need a little help, come and chat with us.