back care awareness weekGet out and about for a healthier back and a wellbeing bonus: timely advice for Backcare Awareness Week

As it’s Backcare Awareness Week (3rd-8th October) we asked The Forge Clinic’s therapists to give their favourite backcare tips, thoughts and ideas. Here’s what they told us.

Several stressed that getting off the sofa and out in the fresh air is a great starting point. “Though it’s tempting to rest and do nothing when you have a bad back” says Physiotherapist Rory Mee, “the fact is that backs like to be mobile – which is why we are constantly hearing advice to get up and get moving.”

But he stresses that exercise doesn’t have to involve a run or going to the gym. “Just getting out of the house and off the sofa with a walk around your local park will provide a sense of wellbeing. This is because alongside the beneficial effects of fresh air and natural light you experience endorphine, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine release, which can inhibit the transmission of pain and balance your mood. They are a much better form of pain relief in my opinion.”

He put this advice into action recently when treating a chronic back patient who spends most of her time indoors. “She enjoyed photography but told me she hasn’t used her camera in months. I’ve challenged her to get out and bring back a lovely picture. By doing this, the emphasis and focus will be away from her back pain and more on the picture. Before she knows it she will have covered more distance than she has in months and probably won’t think about her back all that much.”

Osteopath Philip McNulty also stresses the importance of getting up and about and has some really practical tips for back pain sufferers:

1) Prolonged poor sitting maintains back pain, so get out of the chair as much as you can and if you can’t then get the furniture right.

2) Movement is good for nearly all back pain. A few loosening up movements done regularly will do or a more formal exercise program.

3) If your back aches whilst walking, try fast walking. Slow walking is much like standing around whereas a few minutes of fast walking your back should loosen up.

For Osteopath Alan Burke it’s simple. “Get some exercise, get a Varidesk (which allows you to stand or sit and encourages good posture) and basically get moving!”

Massage Therapist Nicky McClean has another great tip for equipment and cost-free backcare exercise. Plank and side plank exercises strengthen both the core and deep postural muscles allowing the overworked extensors either side of the spine to relax and remain in neutral, thus relieving pressure on the back. “

Here’s another intriguing thought, from Osteopath Tristan Jones, to try at your desk, watching TV or just walking round the house:Draw your belly in! Not all the way, because that’s not sustainable, but just halfway. This is a simple but surprisingly effective way of activating the core, which gives you your very own corset, or back support!”

Chiropractor Jean Luc Lafitte agrees that you can help your back even when you are standing still. “The most important advice I give my patients is posture, posture, posture. So always stand level on both legs with weight evenly distributed.”

But what about when you are resting or want to relax?

Massage Therapist Naomi Johns says “I like to sit in the ‘child’s pose’ – as well as gently stretching out the back it is also meditative and restorative to a stressed body.” This simple yoga exercise, also known as Balasana, takes a few minutes, gently stretches your lower back, hips, thighs, knees and ankles as well as relaxing your spine, shoulders and neck. It increases blood circulation to your head, which reduces headaches, massages your internal organs and calms the mind (your central nervous system), helping to relieve stress and tension.

David Silver, Physiotherapist, also stresses the role of blood supply: “Your blood pressure is usually at its lowest first thing in the morning and your nervous system is most irritable when it has limited blood supply. So taking 6-8 deep breaths in the morning can raise blood pressure and reduce the severity of morning pain.

Finally, back to Rory Mee for some commonsense advice as we grow older. “When it comes to backs, there’s too much emphasis on scans! Degenerative changes to our backs, including those to disks in the lumbar spine, occur from our early 20s. This is usually normal. In addition, 80% of the UK population will have back pain at some point. Just because it’s your back, in most circumstances it shouldn’t be considered any more worrying/ or significant than, say, spraining your ankle. NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) states that scans are only if a serious condition is suspected or orthopaedic surgery (via a fusion, for example) is needed.

In other words, get moving, do your rehab and more often than not your symptoms will start to subside, sparing the MRI or a wasted and unnecessary dose of radiation through x-ray!!.”

For more information on back care and back health, or if you are experiencing back pain, please call us on 020 8332 6184 or email us at info@theforgeclinic.com

Backcare Awareness Week 2016 is 3rd-8th October. This event, organised by BackCare, raises awareness of the problems caused by back pain as well as providing information on back pain prevent and treatment options. You can also find simple backcare and back pain exercises from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy here.