Did you know that back pain is the second most common reason people visit their doctors (after upper respiratory infections)?

According to the Office for National Statistics, almost 31 million days of work are lost each year due to back and neck pain. Especially as we get older, degenerative back problems become more common and can lead to more serious problems.

Lower back pain, known as lumbago, is particularly common. However, back pain can occur at any point along the spine from your neck to your hips. Back health is something everyone should be aware of.

That’s why we marked Back Awareness week earlier this month at Petersfield Physio, and I’d like to take a look in October at what you can do to keep you back in good shape and what to do if something starts to go wrong.

Does age make a difference?

People of any age can suffer from back pain. The older generation will also know that back pain gets more common as various aging processes begin to affect the spine, but it’s not inevitable. That’s why it is so important to stay active throughout life in order to maintain a healthy back.

However, it’s not just the older generation that experience back pain. In fact, almost everyone will experience some form of back pain at any particular point in life.

The modern lifestyle encourages us all to sit at computers, whether at work or at home, for hours on end and back pain amongst young people is also on the increase.

As a sports physiotherapist, I see lots of young people with back injuries because, although exercise and activity are good for developing good back health, some sports are prone to back injury.

Sports that involve lots of repetitive impact (such as running) or a twisting motion (golf) can cause severe damage to the back over a period. This is why it is so important to warm up fully and stretch your muscles before playing a sport or exercising, focusing on the areas that will be under the most impact.

Helping yourself to prevent your back pain

My mantra to help prevent back pain is:

  • Activity
  • Core strength
  • Posture

Don’t be afraid that sport or activity will damage your back. The sedentary lifestyle that many young people are used to today can cause many more problems than the risk of a sports injury. Staying active will keep your back more mobile and you can also exercise to build the core strength so that your back muscles protect the joints along your spine.

Many activities are excellent for back health, (just make sure to warm up properly beforehand):

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Dancing,
  • Swimming
  • Aquarobics
  • Yoga
  • Pilates

Yoga and Pilates are also very good to help you develop a good, upright posture to keep your back in its natural shape, to reduce the muscle strain and strengthen the supporting muscles, not only in your back but also your shoulders and neck. A physiotherapist can also give you expert advice and exercises to help.

What can I do if I get a back pain?

Back pain can come in different forms and comes with a bagful of related problems:

  • Interrupts sleep
  • Prevents you from doing your day-to-day activities
  • Localised tenderness when pressed

The first thing to do if you experience any of these problems is seek expert advice, from your GP or, even better, a trained physiotherapist.

Twenty years ago, we would have been told to treat back problems with lots of rest, however, this is now known to actually worsen the problem. Instead we should try to keep as active as possible to keep the back moving and healthy. Even if the back pain goes within a few weeks, it’s generally a good idea to keep active, to reduce the chances of the problem recurring and for all the other health benefits of regular activity.

Back pain, whilst painful, is usually temporary and not the result of serious damage, easing within a few weeks. But it isn’t pleasant and many of us are too busy to feel incapacitated.

So if you’re suffering from a recent or recurring back problem, contact us or ring 01730 267645 to make an appointment at our East Hampshire clinic. We’ll help you get rid of that pain and, more importantly, show you how to prevent it from recurring.