It supports us, helps us to keep active and is integral to our health and comfort; however, many of us take our back health for granted.
So what steps can we take to keep our backs in tip-top condition and avoid unnecessary problems?
Back to basics
The NHS says there are many ways in which people can take better care of their backs, some of which may be obvious however some are much less so.
Regular exercise, including walking, swimming (including front and back strokes) and using exercise bikes are great ways to strengthen back muscles. Likewise, using the correct lifting technique for lifting heavy objects can also help to reduce the chance of developing back problems, as can losing excess weight.1
There are other ways we can help our back in everyday situations, for example, by using a comfortable rucksack to carry larger loads instead of a sling bag, and making use of both shoulder straps to help limit any damage caused. In addition, the NHS suggests taking a break from sitting down every 30 minutes. Why not set yourself a challenge whilst at work to do a lap of the office every half an hour – not only will this help your back, but it will help you increase your daily step count!
Also, alongside many other benefits, quitting smoking can even help to limit back problems. It is believed smoking reduces the blood supply to the discs between the vertebrae2 and the lack of blood can lead to them degenerating over time.
What causes back pain?
Back pain can be a direct result of a sprain or strain, but it can often appear for no apparent reason. Being stressed or run down can contribute to back pain and poor posture can also have a negative effect.
That said, there are many medical conditions which can affect back health:
- Slipped discs – where a cartilage disc presses on a nerve – can cause pain and numbness in the back alongside tingling and weakness in other parts of the body.
- Sciatica can cause a range of symptoms by irritating the nerve that runs from the lower back to the feet
- Ankylosing spondylitis causes pain the joints in the spine to swell resulting in pain and stiffness.
Many causes of back pain are treatable, however the key is often to identify the root of the problem.
What to do if something goes wrong?
The first port of call for back pain should always be to visit your doctor who may advise seeing a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath, who can provide effective solutions for relieving back pain.
Physiotherapists work with patients to understand their lifestyles and can provide treatments to help get to the root of the problem, enabling thousands of people each year to live pain free. As a physio patient, you can be involved in your own care, often being given a variety of exercises to repeat at home to aid recovery.
Osteopathy is an effective way of treating back pain and offers a series of moves, stretches and massages to treat muscles and joints. Based on the principle that the wellbeing of an individual depends on bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue functioning smoothly together, osteopathy can also treat neck pain, shoulder pain and arthritis.
Chiropractic treatment looks not only at the musculoskeletal system, but also at the nervous system and overall health of the patient. Whilst it’s a manual form of therapy like osteopathy and physiotherapy, the main difference is that it focuses on spinal manipulation in order to treat primarily lower back and neck pain. To find out more about the differences between the three treatments, check out our blog.
In addition, complementary therapies such as acupuncture, can also serve to relieve back pain. This ancient Chinese practice employs fine needles to stimulate sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles of the body and is used to provide relief for a range of health conditions.
If you do suffer from back pain, did you know that with a health care cash plan from Sovereign Health Care you can claim money back towards a range of everyday health costs including physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture and much more? Cover starts from just £2.52 per week. To find out more about our cash plans and what we cover, click here.