Health and fitness: How to prevent back pain

Henry Howe, from Reebok Sports Club and New Body Osteopathy, discusses how to avoid back pain

Low back pain is the single most prolific cause of disability in modern society, with well over 600 million people suffering in the world today.

Even as an Osteopath it surprises me that low back pain is more of a global health issue than both cardiovascular disease and cancer combined. Furthermore, the condition appears to be increasing significantly in its prevalence.

You suffer from back pain, what should you do next?

The good news is that in most cases of new back pain, symptoms resolve with conservative management and do so in relatively little time. Instances where your symptoms persist for beyond a month or two without improving are probably cause for assessment from a qualified healthcare professional. Other cases suitable for professional attention are those that come with other symptoms such as generally feeling unwell, changes to your daily bowel & bladder habits, loss of sensation to your sexual organs and symptoms of back pain that wake you or are worse at night.

What can you do to avoid any future issues?

Exercise and back pain.

I am happy to say that most forms of exercise do something to help your back pain, and fit people get better sooner. Most cases of low back pain respond well to almost any exercise. Hence the range of methods being shown as beneficial in medical research is broad! Aerobics, stretching, yoga, Pilates, functional training, resistance training, core exercises, walking, swimming, cycling…all have some benefit and all of which I have seen reduce pain in the patients I see. Which exercise is most appropriate likely depends more on your lifestyle than the type of injury you have, but one thing is for sure – we absolutely must exercise regularly in some form.

Stress and mental wellbeing.

This area of your health is perhaps the most important to appreciate, not just for your spinal health but also for the health of all your bodily systems. In nearly all cases of persistent back pain individuals suffer from the psychological stress of being unwell to a greater or lesser degree. This has a huge impact on the choices we make, how we eat, how easily we fall asleep, whether we let symptoms interfere with our social and working life, and ultimately how well we recover. Research also suggests that individuals who manage their psyche during bouts of back pain are more likely to prevent future relapse and experience lower intensities of pain when symptoms do arise.

Improving your working environment.

Many of us tend to be desk-locked for most of our working week, which can make it a challenge to keep moving but there are a few strategies we can use to help our backs. An ergonomic assessment is a start and can certainly help alleviate any obvious issues in your desk set-up. Height-adjustable desks that allow you to either sit or stand during your working day are now the gold standard workstation and employers are coming around to implementing them in workspaces. Various studies have shown benefits to both cardiovascular and hormonal health in individuals who stand for as little as 3 hours of their working day, and adjustable stations are becoming more common.

For more information on any of the content in this article please do not hesitate to contact Henry Howe at New Body Osteopathy.

Henry Howe is a Registered Osteopath and Medical Acupuncturist at New Body Osteopathy, Canary Wharf. He is a personal trainer at Reebok Sports Club and is vastly experienced in the field of exercise rehabilitation, having been featured in publications such as The Mirror, Country Living, Cosmopolitan and Men’s Fitness.

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This article was last updated on February 20, 2018.
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