Back pain is something that the vast majority of us will experience at one time or another. Depending on the severity and cause of the pain, it can range from being a minor, short-term inconvenience to a debilitating issue that could potentially last a lifetime and impair your mobility. Even the smallest of twists or pulls can cause painful problems that may stay with you for years. In short, it’s not an issue to be taken lightly.

In many ways, a healthy back is all about prevention, not cure. Once it’s been damaged, it’s a long, bumpy road to recovery. But by learning how to move, lift, sit and exercise properly, you can minimise the risk of injury and prevent painful twists and sprains affecting your health and quality of life. With that in mind, here are 5 IDEAL steps to prevent back pain and problems.

PRACTICE GOOD POSTURE

Many of us spend long stretches of the day tied to a desk for work or study.  But spending too much time in a seated, often hunched, position can leave your back feeling sore and stiff. Although sitting down takes the weight off your feet and legs, and may therefore feel like it’s putting less strain on your back, it actually equates to more pressure on the muscles and discs of your back and neck.

A simple, effective preventative measure is to get into the habit of sitting correctly; that’s all the way back in your seat, back straight and legs at a right angle to it, with no punctuation of perching and hunching. Ergonomic positioning of items will help too. Have your monitor at eye level and keyboard square to your chest with wrists on the desk. Go a step further and practice sitting exercises which strengthen your core.

LEARN TO LIFT CORRECTLY

Have you been the victim of an accident at work that wasn’t your fault, asks the hopefully besuited man on the tele. But one badly planned, poorly executed lift of a heavy or bulky object and you could damage your back permanently. This is a serious business, then.

It’s important to be aware of how such injuries, particularly to the spinal chord and even relatively minor ones, can occur from day-to-day activities. Such awareness can help prevent them from happening in the first place. A good place to get wise is here on the SCI Progress website.

It’s also crucial to learn and practice effective and safe lifting techniques that can be applied both at home and at work. Whatever it is you are lifting, plan your lift before you start it. Determine how heavy the load is, and where it is going.  You also need to remember to bend your knees when you lift and try to keep your back straight to prevent damage. Also don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

EXERCISE YOUR BACK REGULARLY

Exercising your back regularly can help to reduce back pain and improve your overall strength and flexibility.  Gentle exercises designed specifically for the back, combined with activities like walking, swimming and yoga, can build strength when practiced regularly.

With over 140 overlapping muscles in the back alone, stretches, planks, curls and even some cardio moves can help to increase muscle strength and prevent pain and strain when moving, sitting and lifting. Running regularly can do wonders for your posture and core strength if you like to keep things simple.

SCHEDULE IN BREAKS FROM SITTING

A sedentary lifestyle can be harmful for us in many ways, from weight gain to the increased likelihood of aches and pains in various parts of the body. To remain in the best of health, you should aim to be active for at least 60 minutes every day, and step away from your desk to go for a walk, a run or even just to undertake some gentle exercises as often as possible.

Inactivity can lead to health conditions such as obesity and diabetes, but can also cause pain and damage to the back. Even if your job requires you to sit in the same position for 7-8 hours a day, you can still help keep the pain at bay by taking regular breaks to stretch your muscles and look away from your computer.

ENSURE YOUR BED IS SUPPORTIVE

Most adults spend over a third of their lifetime in bed, so making sure that you have a mattress that is supportive and safe for your back is vital to ensure a good night’s sleep and pain free days.  

When buying a mattress you should first consider the type of mattress you’re looking at. From sprung mattresses to memory foam, there are a variety of materials available that offer differing levels of support for your back. Firmness is also crucial. It’s a commonly held belief that the firmer the mattress, the better it is for your back.  This is not necessarily true, but it’s important that you choose a mattress that is firm enough to ensure the spine remains properly aligned while you sleep. And comfort, of course, is king. You need to find a mattress comfortable enough to promote restful sleep.