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Good back care

It is important to keep your back fit and healthy. This does not only put you in the best position to prevent back pain, but also enables you to control back pain when it strikes.
Preventing back pain
Research has shown that it is difficult to prevent back pain completely, but there are a number of things you can do to:
Reduce the risks of developing back pain, and
Reduce the impact back pain has on your life when back pain does occur.
As explained in the section on causes of back pain, there are many factors that can lead to back pain. To achieve this it is important to reduce multiple risk factors for back pain by:
Staying active
It is important to keep your back fit and healthy by staying active and participating in regular physical activity. There is no need to run a marathon or become a fitness fanatic to achieve this; small changes to your life style can make a real difference. You can think of:
• Walking or cycling instead of taking the car.
• When using public transport, getting off one stop earlier and walking the rest.
• Gardening, hoovering, cleaning the house or walking the dogs are all examples of daily activities whereby you are being physically active.
Furthermore you should choose an exercise or activity that you enjoy and that gives you the benefits you want, such as walking, swimming, cycling, going to the fitness centre, aerobics, etc. You’ll find that you get most benefit if you do these activities 2 to 4 times a week for about 20 to 30 minutes at a time. You may want to alternate between activities or join a group to ensure that you keep enjoying your activities.
Besides using these activities to keep your back fit and healthy, your mind and the rest of your body will also experience the benefits.
Looking after your posture
Your spine is a very flexible and strong structure that can cope with many of the stresses in daily life. Ergonomists often say that the best posture for your back is the next one, showing that regularly changing your position is very useful.
You will see that your spine is a ‘S’ shape and it is important to keep this natural curve of your back when sitting. Good chairs follow this natural curve of the back. However, since all backs are different, good chairs should also be adjustable to ensure you can set them up for your needs.
When kneeling, bend from the knees and not from the back, especially when you are having to lift something at the same time.
Keeping your back flexible
Flexibility is one of the key characteristics of your back. To improve or maintain the flexibility in your back you can do mobilising exercises. You will feel that is especially important to do this after you have been in one position for a long period of time.
Besides doing some mobilising exercises at home, you can also take part in a structured exercise classes that focus on balancing mobilisation with stabilisation like Body Control Pilates classes and the ‘Healthy Back’ classes offered by Back4Good Practitioners.
Lifting heavy goods
Lifting heavy or awkwardly shaped items can be a risk factor for back pain, especially when you have to lift repetitively. To reduce the chances of lifting giving you a back injury, you should use manual handling aids and the correct technique. When lifting bend your knees and keep the weight as close to your body as possible. If the item is very heavy, ask for help, or use tools such as lifts to make the work easier. This is especially important when having to do repetitive lifting.
Healthy eating and drinking
A healthy diet and drinking sufficient water is important for everyone, including people with back pain. It has been suggested that drinking sufficient water is important to keep the intervertebral discs hydrated. Besides possible benefits for your back health, a healthy diet is good for your general well being, which gives another important reason to pay attention to what you eat and drink.
With thanks to BackCare, the charity for healthier backs.