With a rise in home working, our backs are being put under increased strain. Our back health is important to maintain, as strong back muscles are essential for core stability. A strong core ensures that we have good balance and that we do not struggle to complete everyday tasks such as twisting, lifting and standing for long periods of time. In this post are some tips on how to look after your back and expert advice on how best to prevent back pain.
Besides helping with back pain, good posture also has other benefits. For instance, it can positively influence your behaviour subconsciously. A 2010 study on power posing found that people with good posture were more confident and inclined to feel in control. According to a 2009 study, those who have good posture are more inclined to think favourably about themselves.
To keep good posture when sitting, make sure your shoulders are relaxed, your feet are on the floor, and that your back, thighs and hips are well supported. Make sure that you take breaks and short walks regularly, and try to stretch your neck and back muscles often.
It is also important to be mindful of your posture when standing. Stand straight, keeping your shoulders back with your head level. It also helps to engage your core so that your stomach is in.
Additionally, make sure that your sleeping position is also correct, as bad posture during your sleep can greatly aggravate your back pain during the day. Try sleeping on your side, and place a pillow between your knees to keep a neutral spine.
Sitting correctly at your desk
Although the usual recommendations for sitting correctly apply also when you are working at your desk, there are a few additional considerations you need to make in this environment.
Make sure that your chair height is adjusted to allow you to sit comfortably with your arms on your desk.
Screen at eye level
Importantly, your computer monitor should be at eye level so that you can keep your neck straight in a comfortable position (without having to look up or down).
Keyboard in front of you
Your keyboard should be in a position that will allow you to type comfortably. It is usually recommended that it is at a height that allows your elbows to be bent at 90 degrees. Your mouse should also not be too far from you.
Kneeling chairs have made their way into our offices in recent years, claiming to alleviate back pain. They have one pad that supports your bottom and thighs and another one that supports your knees and shins. This position encourages ‘active sitting’, as you need to make an effort to keep a more upright posture.
A kneeling chair is meant to keep the lower back’s natural curvature, which may be beneficial to individuals with lower back discomfort. This study from 2015 found that, compared to a conventional office chair, a kneeling chair can help patients with back problems minimise lumbar lordosis—the inward curvature of the lower back that leads to a lot of back pain.
Using a posture corrector
Posture correctors work as a temporary posture aid. It is important to understand that in order to have a good posture permanently, you need to start by strengthening your muscles. A posture corrector can help your body ‘remember’ what keeping good posture feels like. However, they shouldn’t be used for extended periods of time because they could contribute to weakening your muscles if your body starts to rely on them to hold you up.
Maintaining a healthy weight
When you carry excess weight on your body, especially around your stomach, it pulls your pelvis forward. Every pound you gain puts more strain on your back muscles and ligaments, so the spine can develop an abnormal curvature over time. This can harm the discs in your spine, and if they try to compensate for the additional weight, they can become herniated and result in sciatica.
Overweight individuals are more likely than people of an ideal weight to suffer musculoskeletal injuries. So maintaining a healthy weight or decreasing weight can alleviate or avoid back problems, as well as reducing stress on other joints. Even losing a few pounds might make a significant impact on your back.
Exercising core muscles
The back muscles that run between your spine bones and along your spine are the main muscles that you need to strengthen if you want to stop suffering from back pain. However, the front abdominal muscles, the obliques, and transverse abdominal muscles are also important to maintain and improve.
The following exercises can help you strengthen this part of your body.
Besides strengthening the lower back, this exercise helps strengthen hamstrings, glutes, abdomen and hips, all parts of your body that support your back. Bridge can be done as part of your yoga session, or you can also incorporate it into a HIIT routine by doing some repetitions.
To do a glute bridge correctly:
- With your back on the floor, bend your knees and bring your heels close to your glutes
- Squeeze down on your glutes and lift your hips
- Make sure your shoulders, hips, and knees make a single, straight line
- Hold this position for about six seconds
- Slowly bring your hips back to the floor and rest for 10 seconds
- Repeat 10 times.
Yoga is a great way to exercise if you are looking for a way to prevent or treat back pain. Halfway between stretching and exercising your core muscles, yoga has amazing benefits for those suffering from backache. Some yoga poses are especially effective at targeting back muscles, including cat-cow, downward-facing dog, cobra pose or bridge pose.
Similarly to yoga, a pilates-inspired workout can help you relieve lower back pain by strengthening your muscles and improving mobility and balance. The NHS website includes a video of pilates exercises that you can follow if you suffer from chronic back pain.
Stretching using a foam roller
Using a foam roller can improve the back pain caused by bad posture. It also relieves tension in your upper back and can help to align your head and neck. Try lying on the floor or a mat using a foam roller beneath your spine to support your head and tailbone. Keep your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, and your arms spread to the sides.
If it is your lower back that you want to target, place the foam roller horizontally underneath your lower back while lying down, bending your knees and with your feet on the floor.
Then, place your hands on your shins and bend your knees into your chest. Shift your weight to the right side and for a few seconds, stay in this position. Then rock slightly to the left and repeat 2–3 times more.
|HyGYM Adjustable Foam Roller
– Precision-engineered to knead and massage those aching muscles
– Improve your core strength & muscle flexibility
– Increase circulation and relief for muscular pain
If you are already exercising regularly, seeing a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath for an assessment and back massage can be helpful as a complementary therapy. This will work only if your back pain is caused by tensed muscles or if they’ve been overworked.
Heat or cold
Applying ice to the sore regions of your back on a regular basis can help decrease inflammation and pain if it was caused by an injury. You can try it for 15-20 minutes each time, multiple times a day, wrapping an ice pack in a small towel.
If you want to relax your muscles and promote blood flow to the afflicted area, use a heating pad or a hot water bottle instead. You can also have a warm bath to ease stiff or tight muscles.
Ultimately, having good back health is important as our spines support our entire body. By following the above advice, and the tips on the infographic, you should be able to maintain a healthy back at home. HyGYM has a range of fitness equipment to support the strengthening of muscles and advice on how to stay in shape from home – contact us to find out more.