Preventing Back pain

Spinal pain may be common, but it’s also easily prevented.

By Donna Fleming

Back discomfort is a major problem – around 80% of us hurt our backs at some stage in our lives, and while most recover in four to six weeks, others are left with ongoing issues that can have a huge impact.

However, the following guide could help you avoid such discomfort.

Five facts about back pain

1) Slouching and lifting objects is most often to blame. A nationwide survey by Physiotherapy New Zealand has found that just over a third of Kiwis put it down to heavy lifting, while a slightly smaller number think poor posture is responsible. These are easily preventable risk factors, says Physiotherapy New Zealand president Gill Stotter. “Improving our posture and taking care when lifting heavy objects are simple steps that we can take to help protect ourselves in the future.”

2) Don’t head to bed when your back is sore. It is a common misconception that lying down is the best treatment, says Gill. “Bed rest is a myth, and one that we need to stamp out. The evidence clearly shows that being inactive will not help. If you’re afraid of certain exercise, then a physio can advise on the level of activity and particular exercises that are right for you.”

3) It’s not a case of “something being out”. Most back pain is caused by strain to the ligaments, tendons and muscles that support it. Manipulating your back to “pop something into place” won’t solve your problems. However, manipulation can provide pain relief and help improve the mobility of your joints.

4) Your weight can affect the health of your back. Your spine is designed to carry your weight and distribute the load around your body. When you’re carrying extra kilos, your body is forced to bear that additional load, which can lead to structural damage and conditions like sciatica. The lower back – or lumbar spine – is most vulnerable to the effects of being overweight or obese.

5) Get off your backside. Sitting for long periods of time can contribute to pain. The Physiotherapy New Zealand survey showed that one in every two people sit for more than six hours a day. If you’ve got a job in an office, you should get up regularly to stretch or go for a short walk. Doing exercise in your break time will also help.

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