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Sayer Clinics Exercises and Posture For Back Pain – Tips To Reduce Back Pain and Speed Up Recovery

Many people sit at a desk for several hours a day. However, now amid a global pandemic, the advice to work from home wherever possible is leading to a range of different home office setups that could be taking their toll on your body. Poorly supporting chairs, hunching over a laptop, and lack of physical activity are some of the main issues you may face when working from home. In turn, these aspects could potentially cause back pain in the longer term. 


As the situation goes on with no clear picture of how long working from home may last, there are some things you can do to help ease the strain on your body. Here we look at some of the common causes of back pain and how to prevent it so that you can work comfortably during this period. 


Common causes of back pain

Back pain can be attributed to a range of conditions. However, there are many cases where the cause cannot be identified clearly. This is often referred to as non-specific back pain and can be treated by doing simple stretches and taking advice from a professional. 


Back pain is also often described as acute or chronic. Acute back pain is a pain that comes on suddenly and generally lasts no more than six weeks. In contrast, chronic back pain lasts for over three months and can affect everyday lifestyles. 


Take a look at some of the common causes of back pain:


Sprains and strains 

If you’ve ever tweaked your back lifting something heavy, then you’ll know how painful it can be. In some cases, you may have strained or sprained a muscle, and this can affect a range of areas, including the back, shoulders, neck and hips. Sometimes you may not even realise you’ve done anything to cause the specific pain. 


Poor posture 

In a poll reported by the Independent, it highlighted that the average office worker spends around 1,700 hours a year in front of a computer screen. The same study also said that people also spend approximately six and a half hours a day sitting looking at a computer or laptop. However, these figures don’t take into account the time individuals then spend looking at screens when they get home, whether that’s a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.


One of the main issues with sitting for prolonged periods is posture. Back pain is often attributed to poor posture, and this could be slouching at your desk or sitting on the sofa. Each can play a crucial role in contributing to aches and pains in your back, shoulders and neck.  


Medical conditions 

In some cases, a medical condition could be the cause of your back pain. If you have recurring pain or issues that get worse, it is advisable to seek professional help. Some of the leading medical conditions that can cause back pain include:


• Slipped disc 

• Sciatica 

• Arthritis 

• Scoliosis

• Osteoporosis 


The above examples often cause other symptoms alongside back pain. These include numbness, tingling sensations and weakness. Medical conditions such as the above are treated differently to acute back pain and require professional assistance for diagnosis and on-going treatment. 


Tips for preventing back pain 

In many cases of acute back pain, there is a range of things you can do to alleviate the symptoms. Many of these elements can be incorporated into daily life, and by maintaining them throughout your routine, you can help to reduce the occurrence of future back pain. 


Explore some of the ways you can prevent painful episodes:


Keep moving 

One of the main issues we have in modern society is we don’t move our bodies enough. The NHS recommends that adults should aim to be physically active every day. This includes at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week. Plus, strengthening exercises at least twice a week. 


Some activities that count as moderate-intensity activity include:


• Brisk walking

• Cycling

• Dancing

• Hiking

• Pushing a lawnmower


Some activities that count as vigorous-intensity activity include:


• Jogging 

• Running

• Sports such as football or rugby

• Aerobics 


Activities that are great for strengthening muscles include:


• Yoga

• Pilates

• Bodyweight exercises

• Heavy gardening 


The advice is also to avoid sitting or lying down for long periods of time during the day. So this could include moving away from your desk for a few minutes every hour to stretch your legs or doing a workout on your lunch hour to break up the day. 


In short, anything is better than nothing. Although the current circumstances restrict outside exercise to once per day, there are plenty of online workouts to get the blood pumping. 


Take care when lifting heavy objects

One of the most common ways to hurt your back is by lifting heavy objects incorrectly. The strain this puts on your back can lead to painful injuries and prolonged pain. If you need to lift something substantial, you should try and always stick to the guidance for lifting safely. You should avoid bending your back when lifting, and assume a squatting position to lift the object close to your body and from the knees upwards. There are several aspects to consider when lifting – see NHS guidance here for safe lifting tips.  


Maintain a healthy diet

If you’re working from home, the temptation to snack and eat more than usual can be challenging. Understandably, your routine may be a lot different to normal. However, trying to stay healthy is vital to ensure you reduce injury and back pain when working at home. Incorporate essential nutrients and foods into your diet and ensure your water intake is adequate too. These elements will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of injury. 


Realign your posture

Throughout the day, it’s natural to start slumping into your chair or desk. However, over time this will have a significant impact on your back. To avoid this, check your posture at regular intervals and realign it if you’ve started to slouch. By being mindful of your position and scheduling these little checks into your routine, you will ensure you are sitting correctly and not putting unnecessary strain on your body. 


Exercises and stretches to reduce back pain 

Prevention is always the best cure, but there will be times where back pain may strike when you least expect it. Painful episodes should ease after a few weeks, but to help reduce the pain overall, you can do simple exercises and stretching to aid recovery. 


Some examples of this include:


Gentle exercise and stretching

Your body is healing, so there’s no point in worsening the symptoms with vigorous exercise. However, you can do some to reduce the pain and free up your muscles. Trying activities such as walking or yoga will help increase blood flow to painful areas to help them heal. This also provides gentle support and stretch to affected zones without overdoing it.  


It’s essential to see a professional if you experience a lot of pain trying to exercise or stretch, and if the pain persists for more than a few weeks. 


Stretches that target different pain points

It’s important to identify where the main pain points are in order to stretch each area correctly. Common zones include the lower back, upper back, spine area, hips, neck and shoulders. However, it’s also vital to recognise that several pain points could be interconnected, so doing various stretches may help. 


Some common stretches you can do to assist pain reduction are:


Knee rolls – This stretch involves lying on the floor with your arms stretched out either side of your body. Bringing your knees up, and together, you gently roll to the left to right and hold the stretch for one deep breath before returning to the start position. Repeat 8 to 10 times. 


Back extensions – For a simple yet effective stretch, start by lying face down and place your arms bent at either side of you, looking towards the floor. Keep your neck straight and push away from the floor. Once at the top of the stretch, breathe for 5 to 10 seconds and return to the floor. Repeat between 8 and 10 times. 


Bottom to heel stretch – This is a common exercise that is well known in yoga practises and provides a deep backstretch. Start by kneeling on all fours and get into the correct posture – with back and neck straight and knees under hips. Take your body back towards your heels and hold the position for one breath, then return. Repeat this 8 to 10 times. 


These are some examples of the types of exercises you can do to relieve back pain. It is crucial to ensure you take care when stretching and exercising, especially if you are experiencing pain. Only stretch to as far as you feel comfortable; otherwise, you may cause more injury in this area. 


By following the above steps, you can explore various ways to speed up recovery and maintain a healthy lifestyle.