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The simpler causes of back pain

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Low back pain affects around 1 in 3 of the UK adult population each year. Almost 31 million days of work were lost last year due to back, neck and muscle problems, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). But what can we do as individuals as we go about our daily routine to lessen our back pain?

We know that a lack of knowledge about how to look after your back and a decline in fitness levels among the general population are the biggest contributors.

There is usually something in a person’s activity in daily living which is causing a repetitive problem. Then they do something that is relatively trivial that sets it off.

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You often hear people recount stories that they have done something simple like put their back out as they have bent over to pick up a pencil. In this kind of situation, it was always going to happen. It was just a question of when.

There are so many simple things people can do to avoid this happening. We need to understand what that repetitive strain is – that might be how you sit, the way you get out of a chair, lift or your posture.

In the morning when we are waking up, we don’t tend to think about protecting our backs.  We bend our backs when we first wake up, and this at the time of day when the spine is at its most vulnerable.

The discs in your back, when there is no weight bearing, absorb moisture and hydrate – they actually swell and get bigger when we sleep.
You are taller first thing in the morning too. So the disc is quite pumped, quite turgid and it’s more prone to injury because it is more pressurised. Very often people with back pain have problems in that first hour of the day.

What people tend to do is get up, and half tired, bend over the sink and shave or brush their teeth. Bending first thing in the morning is bad for your back because it increases the load in your lower back.

Practical tips:

  • Avoid bending your back excessively in the first hour of the day
  • Especially avoid situps/crunches to protect your discs
  • If you currently have a disc problem, use a high stool or stand for the first hour of the day instead of sitting (this reduces the pressure on your discs)
  • Be conscious of your posture when you wake, keep a neutral spine!

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