Cracking bad backs

Recent research from the British Chiropractic Association found that a staggering four in five people (86 per cent) are currently experiencing back or neck ache, or have suffered in the past. Many of those suffering have been putting up with their pain for a number of years – some for more than ten – without seeking any kind of treatment.

As a chiropractor, my patients often seem to think that back and neck pain is a normal part of daily life and perhaps an inevitable part of ageing. What many people don’t seem to realise is that their daily routines could be contributing to their pain and how small lifestyle changes at home and work can help people protect their back and neck health.

Modern lifestyles see more of us spending our time sitting for longer and longer periods, and too many people are completely unaware that staying in the same position for extended periods of time can cause unnecessary strain on the back and neck. Whether at work, watching TV, using a mobile device, or driving, we are a nation who spend a great deal of time sitting down. This is bad news for our backs as sitting places up to twice as much pressure on discs on the spine as standing does, so we are all vulnerable.

Modern working life especially has played a large role in contributing to the sedentary epidemic and for many is a key trigger for back pain. When talking to my patients I always discuss their lifestyles and working patterns with them as it’s essential to get an understanding of their everyday life, in order to understand what may be triggering their pain.

It is estimated that a massive four in five people now have an office job and spend the majority of their day sat down in front of a computer and it’s not just those putting long hours in at the office who are at risk of back pain. Our recent research found that the increasing number of people with the flexibility to work from home were often putting their back health at risk as well. We found that just under a fifth of those working remotely on a laptop /desktop computer admitted to working from the sofa, and more than one in ten said that they work from their bed, both of which encourage poor posture.

This is why the BCA recently launched a campaign to promote better back health wherever people are working. Whilst it may seem for many of us that spending our working day in the same position is unavoidable, there are a number of proactive measures we can take to reduce the potential damage we do to our backs.

  • Always work at a table, sitting on a chair, rather than on the sofa or in bed
  • Relax when sitting into your seat, making sure you have your bottom against the seat back with your shoulder blades touching the back rest of the chair
  • If using a computer, make sure the top of the screen is level with the eyebrows and the chair is titled slightly forward, allowing for the knees to be lower than the hips and the feet to be flat on the floor
  • Taking regular breaks is extremely important and the BCA recommends people move around every 20-30 minutes
  • If you struggle to get away then take time to move around in your seat. Even just changing position will relieve some of the tension that sitting for long periods places on the spine
  • Remember to keep hydrated
  • Add some simple stretches to your day to improve posture and help prevent back pain. The BCA has developed a short programme of exercises that takes just three minutes. More information is available on the BCA website

As a nation, we need to pay more attention to our back and neck health and ensure that our lifestyle choices aren’t contributing to back and neck problems. At the BCA, we recommend we combat this seemingly ingrained sitting culture by making simple changes to our daily routines and increasing our activity levels. Small changes now could make a huge difference in the future.

Dr Rishi Loatey
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