Pain in the back? You’re not alone

If there’s one ‘niggle’ that seems to trouble my clients most, it’s the lower back. Lower back pain is the largest single cause of disability in the UK, with lower back pain alone accounting for 11% of the total disability of the UK population. Wow. That’s impressive.

It’s estimated that lower back pain effects one-third of the UK adult population each year. Of these, around 20% will consult their GP about their back pain. This results in over 2.6 million people in the UK seeking advice about back pain from their GP each year.

Of course there are several different reasons you might experience back pain, from injuries to genetic issues to degenerative problems. If you have recurring back problems or acute pain, your first stop should always be your GP. 

In my experience, the vast majority of back pain can be avoided by managing three things

  1. Ensuring proper posture (especially while sitting at a desk and/or using an electronic device)
  2. Moving on a regular basis during the day, every day
  3. Making sure your muscles are supporting your body effectively 

Good posture, especially as we age, is so critical in maintaining structural integrity. We’ve all heard of ‘tech neck’ – the phenomenon of the human neck negatively adapting to our modern electronic-led culture.  In fact, tech neck is just the start. As we know, the neck is connected to the head at one end and the spine (and the rest of the body) on the other end. Poor habits seemingly associated with only with our neck are actually implicated in a chain of postural and movement issues.

Certainly COVID-19 put a wrench in the world’s natural movement patterns. Our natural habits of popping to the shop or walking to a friend’s for a cuppa were suddenly brought to a halt. The government has tried to keep us on track with their ‘Keep Moving During Lockdown’ campaigns but there’s no doubt that our natural spontaneous movement has been thwarted with lockdown restrictions on when/where we could move. And regular movement is critical to a healthy back. Poor posture and fixed positions can create stress in the body. Deficient movement patterns promote core weakness, muscle strain, inflammation and structural dysfunction. Regular movement is key!!

Last, but certainly not least, we have resistance training. Many people see resistance training (a.k.a weight lifting) as a practice to ‘build bulk’ or look good in a swimsuit. In actual fact, weight lifting is vital to keeping our bodies functioning as they were designed to function. Our increasingly desk (and sofa) based lifestyles means that our skeletal systems are simply not being supported with adequate muscle to maintain good overall health. For people wanting to prevent back pain from recurring muscular health and functioning rely on regular use. 

Remember, muscles need to bear weight, stretch and move to continue supporting the body effectively. It’s as simple as that. 

Happily, habits for a healthy back are habits for a healthy life. Maintaining good posture (and taking regular breaks from desk work), moving the body adequately on a daily basis and integrating strength training into your schedule 2-3 times a week are all that’s needed to address the vast majority of back issues.