1. Understand your body better!
Movement is so important to keep us healthy and happy. It’s important to understand why this is so – our bodies are made up of various tissues that all coexist and interact with one another (think muscles, bone, ligaments, tendons – this is the musculoskeletal component of our bodies). Our major organs serve other individual roles. It would be a mistake to think that our bodies operate like cars.
When a car breaks down, generally a mechanic should be able to identify the part that is at fault and either repair or replace it. The human body is different as it can do this by itself and self-heal. This occurs via a process of self-regulation where the body responds to everything that is going on around it. The body can create something called homeostasis which means it can maintain a stable, balanced internal environment in response to the external environment.
External loads (or tasks) must be respected and understood for us to understand how our bodies work. Take for example a person who enjoys gardening but has a large garden with various types of trees and flowers to look after. Throughout a month, the gardener might have to look after a different section of the garden or do a different task such as trimming a hedge, installing, or fixing reticulation, distributing large bags of mulch. If we look at these tasks individually, we can see that they may all have different physical requirements and may involve different movements or positions from our bodies. One task might involve bending, another task might involve lifting.
All the different tasks mean that our bodies are challenged in many ways. If we don’t perform these tasks regularly, our bodies cannot get used to them. We don’t get stronger for that task because we don’t do it regularly enough. When we are not regularly ready for a task, we can put ourselves at risk of injury, such as back strain.
Therefore, from a physical perspective if someone is unaccustomed to doing these tasks regularly, this may be too much stress on the body. Likewise, for someone whose garden doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, they may only do these tasks once every few months or even once a year. These events could potentially lead to some type of back injury. It’s important to understand or identify what activities we do for work/leisure/home that can impact on our bodies and what we can do to prevent these events turning into pain.
Always listen to your body, know the warning signs of potential injury (such as the beginning of pain or stiffness), make changes as needed, do unaccustomed tasks in short bursts. At Power Physiotherapy we can help guide you on the best way to perform the tasks that you need to do at home, at work and in your leisure time.
2. Don’t worry about posture
It’s a misconception that keeping ‘perfect’ upright posture will help us avoid back pain. It won’t, especially when our jobs involve certain positions all day long without having a break.
- Bricklayers – are you bent over all day?
- Painters – are you looking up to pain the ceiling for long periods?
- Manual labourers – are you digging for hours?
- Plumbers or ceiling fixers – are you squashed into small uncomfortable spots where you must squat or kneel all day?
- Receptionist/data entry person – are you stuck sitting without getting up until lunchtime?
All those positions are not so much of a problem UNLESS, you don’t balance it out with ANOTHER posture. None of the postures mentioned are DANGEROUS, straight, upright, bent, curved, kneeling, crouching etc. BUT We just need t be able to move freely between all postures and positions and balance out the day. A period of ‘not so great’ posture to do what we need to do, followed by ‘better posture’.
Doing this method of balancing between different postures and positions and consistent self-correction may help us avoid the back pain and stiffness associated with work and potentially an actual injury.
3. Face the facts!
We know for a fact that exercise is beneficial for us for so many different reasons, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends guidelines that all of us can follow. Click on the link to find out more. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity
It’s important we do not get overwhelmed by these as some of the numbers may seem daunting to us, if you are struggling to figure out how you can achieve these guidelines have a chat to the Physiotherapy Team at Power Physiotherapy. We can guide you through an exercise regime that is right for you to help you avoid back injury.
4. Don’t live on the couch.
There’s more to life than Netflix! Sedentary activity at work is bad enough; Its important we don’t spend the rest of our time outside of work stuck watching TV. Now I’m not saying it’s the worst thing in the world to every now and then watch something on YouTube or have a Netflix binge, it’s when these activities become daily habits that they become problems for our backs.
It might be as simple as changing what content we are consuming, listening to audio books, music or podcasts which can be done on the go or while out for a walk or while exercising instead of watching a screen.
Break it up into time slots and get up or change positions at least every 45 minutes. Go and grab a drink, make yourself some food, take a trip to the bathroom, anything to change the position you have been in for possibly hours.
Staying in the same position for too long causes spinal discomfort, stiffness and then pain. When you go to get up, you might experience that ‘ouch’ moment because you’ve been sitting for too long. A back injury can occur as simply as that. A Saturday and Sunday t.v. binge can result in one week of back discomfort, which needs treatment.
One great tip is to occasionally lay on the floor on your belly to watch t.v. This is the opposite position to sitting and a great alternative.
5. Get moving and stay moving!
Find some leisure activities or things to do that involve getting active and physical. These don’t need to be extremely strenuous or elaborate to be effective. You might like catching up with friends who enjoy going for a walk; if the weather is bad, why not pair this with some retail therapy and go walk around the shopping centre! If you have a furry friend, they’ll probably love the extra attention and excitement of a daily walk around the block (dogs need exercise too!).
Whatever activity you pick, make sure its an easy thing to get started doing and keep doing regularly. We often get caught up with making lofty goals and huge new year’s resolutions, but important change happens as the sum of small but consistent changes. Achievable goals make habits easy and enjoyable to stick to; easy tasks make it hard to make excuses!
All this information can become overwhelming. If you are experiencing regular back pain and don’t know why, then come and have a chat with us at Power Physiotherapy. After a thorough history and assessment, we will help you identify what aggravates your back, what causes your pain and how we can prevent repeated episodes of back injury or discomfort.