No one wants to feel a painful twinge in their back, but suffering from back pain is actually very common. In fact, experiencing lumber aches and pains at some point in your life is really quite normal – but there are things you can do to help ease and prevent it.
While back pain usually tends to improve after a few weeks or months, you can take steps that’ll make your back healthier and stronger, and less prone to difficulties – and those dreaded twinges.
Here are 5 things you can do to help keep your back strong:
1. Do some exercise
Improving your core strength will significantly help strengthen and support your back. Pilates, yoga, swimming, cycling, walking briskly, etc, will all help increase your flexibility, tone up your muscles and keep you strong in the process.
2. Watch your posture
Most of us already sit still too much, and if you have a desk job, posture can often be a problem that can contribute to back, shoulder and neck pain. Make sure your chair is adjusted correctly when sitting at your computer. The NHS recommends adjusting your chair so your wrists and forearms are level with the floor when typing, that your feet are flat on the floor, your screen at eye level and your mouse close by so you don’t have to strain/stretch to reach it. And remember to take regular breaks (it’s a good idea to change position, get up and move around, every 20-30 minutes – even if it’s just for a minute or two and a quick stretch).
3. Stretch your back out
Whether you already suffer from back pain or not, it’s wise to keep your back supple through stretching – it’ll ease existing discomfort and help prevent the onset of any too. Examples include knee rolls: lie on your back, arms stretched out at shoulder height, bend your knees, keeping them together, and roll them from one side of your body to the other, getting as close to the floor as possible. Or child’s pose: start on all fours, arms and knees shoulder width apart, then sit back on your heels, keeping your arms outstretched, repeat. A physiotherapist or GP will be able to recommend stretches that will suit your individual needs (always seek advice before embarking on any new exercise regime if you have pre-existing health problems or injuries).
4. Watch what you eat
Carrying excess weight puts additional pressure on your joints, which is likely to increase your chances of developing back pain. Stick to a balanced diet – packed with fruit and vegetables – to maintain, or achieve, a healthy weight (speak to your GP for support). And if you’re a smoker – quit, your back will thank you for it. Cigarettes reduce the blood supply to the discs between your spine’s vertebrae, which in turn can speed up degeneration.
5. Sleep on the right mattress
Don’t underestimate how important your mattress when it comes to back comfort. You need one that is suited to your height, weight, age and the position you sleep in – aim for one that’s not too soft or too hard, it must be comfy but fully supportive.