It is estimated that 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives.
The good news? There are simple things you can do to prevent back pain and keep a healthy spine and posture. If you are currently suffering with back pain then the following strategies and habits could help you feel better.
Try to incorporate as many of these into your daily routine and you’ll be amazed at the difference you’ll feel.
Your Back will Thank us.
**Note: If you are currently suffering from back pain, you should still go see a trained professional such as a chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist to have an assessment and possible treatment, but use these strategies to assist with the treatment you receive.
Our Spines like the rest of our body is meant to move. We were designed that way. Standing or sitting for an extended period of time, especially in poor posture continuously without interruption increases your risk of back pain. The most important determinant of risk of pain and injury is not the total time spent performing the activity; what is most important, is how long the activity is performed continuously without interruption. Therefore, Frequent short breaks are better than infrequent long breaks.
2. Avoid Poor Posture
All healthcare professionals worldwide agree that a balanced postural system enhances health and function, and the opposite holds true, that without proper postural alignment the body degenerates at an accelerated rate. Proper Posture therefore, is a fundamental component to optimal health.
What many people may not know, is that we are actually putting our bodies at risk for early onset of degeneration if we don’t take care of our posture. Our bodies were simply not designed to withstand the postural habits of todays society, especially sitting for long periods of time. When you hold a certain position for a long period of time, your soft tissue loses its elasticity, just like an elastic band loses its recoil ability if stretched for extended periods. This also happens in your body, namely to the ligaments.
Over time poor posture can cause serious spinal degeneration with associated symptoms such as chronic back pain, herniated spinal discs, sciatica, and headaches.
3. Don’t Sit for too long
For all your office based workers, taxi drivers, or anyone who spends extended periods of time sitting down. The ideal sitting posture is one that continually changes, thus preventing any single tissue from accumulating too much strain.
- Change Your Posture every 30 minutes
- Stand Up and Walk for a few minutes regularly throughout the day
- Perform Postural Breaks every 30 minutes
- Unload Your Spine at the end of the day
4. Postural Breaks
Repetitive posture breaks every 30 minutes help maintain posture when working for long hours in a constrained, slumped posture.
Perform postural breaks regular throughout the day – preferably every 30 minutes of sitting.
– Sit on the edge of a chair
– Relax legs hip width apart
– Turn feet out slightly
– Rest weight on legs/feet & and sit up tall
– Tilt pelvis forward & lift sternum up
– Turn forearms to front
– Rotate arms outward
– Squeeze shoulder blades together
5. Sit Smart
Now your there you have to sit correctly. Firstly, If sitting hurts, don’t do it. If you must sit, avoid sitting in one position for more than 30 minutes.
– Generally, your neck should remain straight with chin pulled back in relaxed position.
– Shoulders should be draw back.
– Lower back should not be arched too far in either direction (neutral spine as discussed with your chiropractor).
Keep good posture while sitting at desk, reading and watching TV or driving.
6. Don’t Cross Your Legs
Crossing your legs, like sitting for too long, is just asking for back and neck pain. Sitting with your legs crossed puts your hips and lower back in a torqued position, which can lead to rotation of the pelvic bones.
Since your pelvis is the base of support for your spine, if its rotated and unstable, it puts unnecessary pressure on your lower back, all the way up your spine and even into your neck. Furthermore, the longer you sit with your legs crossed, the more pressure you put on your spine, which increases the odds you’ll develop an issue.
7. Don’t Hook Your Feet Under Your Chair
Your probably doing this without realising it. Hooking your feet under your chair causes you to go into greater hip flexion, which means more hip flexor activation, which for someone with lower back pain is something you want to avoid.
Due to the area the Hip Flexors attach to your spine, it means that you will be pulling on your lumbar spine and discs or extended periods of time.
Imaging someone pulling on your arm all day, it’s going to hurt after a while.
8. If your Short, Use a Foot Rest
Following on from the previous point, for shorter individuals a simple solution would be to put your feet on a small stool or raised platform under your desk.
9. Don’t Sit On Your Wallet
Most men are culprits for this at some point, just don’t make it a habit. Sitting on your wallet changes the alignment of your spine and pelvis and can increase compression and pressure in your lower back.
10. Keep a neutral curve in your lower back
Use a towel roll in the small of your back to support your low back or a lumbar support while driving. This may help you maintain a neutral position and reduce discomfort while sitting.
11. Avoid sitting on the floor, soft couches or crossed legged
Again avoiding the above will prevent you from accumulation too much strain on the tissues around your lower back and hips.
12. Don’t Stand for Longer than 2 hours
When we stand for long periods of time we tend to accumulate strain and tension around our lower back. Usually this is because we relax our glutes and our pelvis slips into an anterior pelvic tilt. Furthermore, you may find you favour one leg more than the other, thus causing excessive strain across the lower back.
If you do have to stand for a longer period of time, try and squeeze / tense your glutes. This will take some of the strain off the lower back and help prevent your pelvis slipping into an anterior pelvic tilt.
13. Standing Correctly
Maintaining the natural curve of the spine when standing promotes “good posture”. The human spine looks a little bit like an S from the side, and maintaining those two curves is important.
• Keep your head directly over the shoulders (i.e. “chest out, head back”)
• Keep the shoulders directly over the pelvis
• Tighten the core abdominal and glute muscles
• Tuck in the buttocks
• Place the feet slightly apart and knees bent just a little bit (i.e., not locked).
14. Don’t Wear Heels for Extended periods of time
Heels place you in hyperextension which not only increases the stress on the lower back (mainly through an increased anterior pelvic tilt) but also leads to a kyphotic posture, which isn’t a great look.
Would you rather add a few inches to your height or have better posture and no lower back pain?
15. Office set Up
Your at work 8-12 hours a day… Your office set up is going to have a dramatic impact on your posture and back pain.
Sit Straight, arms at your side, hands/wrists at 90deg angle to your keyboard/desktop (chair should have short and adjustable armrests)
Thighs should be horizontal to floor, with feet resting flat on floor (if they don’t reach, use a foot rest)
Back straight with a slight lean of approximately 100deg.
Don’t cross your legs or sit on your legs.
Keyboard and Mouse:
Shoulders relaxed, arms horizontally in front of you, mouse in easy reach.
Wrists Straight and flat, NOT bent up or down.
Keyboard fairly flat or a negative slant.
Use a keyboard tray to keep hands and arms in neutral position.
Monitor and Work Station:
Eyes in line with upper third of screen, about 55cm to 65 cm (22-26inches) or an arms length away.
16.Don’t Use a laptop for long periods
You should not use a laptop for long periods, without setting the laptop up as part of an ergonomic workstation. This will require the laptop being setup with a laptop stand with an external mouse and keyboard or linking your laptop up to a separate screen.
This allows you to have the laptop screen at the correct height which will stop you bending your neck and hunching your shoulders.
17. Get Your Eyes Checked
Make sure you have a regular check up with the opticians, as a loss in eyesight can also contribute to upper back and neck pain. If your eyesight is deteriorating then your more likely to poke your head forward into a froward head posture when reading, driving and watching tv.
Poor head posture, such as peering at the screen and adopting a ‘poking chin’ posture can put pressure on the joints and soft tissues in the neck and upper back causing referred pain in the head, neck, shoulders, arms or hands.
18. Sit on a posture cushion while at work
During working hours when sitting at your desk or computer, use a posture cushion. Using one will require you to engage your core throughout the day. More importantly, using a posture cushion will create subtle movement in your spine which keeps your joints lubricated and prevents them from stiffening up.
19.Watch the TEXT NECK
Text neck is the term used to describe the position of your head and neck from looking down at your mobile, tablet or laptops too frequently and for too long, resulting in injury and neck pain.
Of course, this posture of bending your neck to look down does not occur only when texting. For years, we’ve all looked down to read. The problem with texting is that it adds one more activity that causes us to look down—and people tend to do it for much longer periods. It is especially concerning because young, growing children could possibly cause permanent damage to their cervical spines that could lead to lifelong neck pain.
According to research, with the development in technology and mobile phone usage, we now spend an average of 2-4 hours a day with our heads dropped down. This results in 700-1,400 hours a year of excess strain on the cervical spine.
20. At work use headphones instead
Following on from the previous point, not only does excessive looking down cause increased strain, so does any excessive side bending of your neck. Clamping the telephone between ear and shoulder is a very bad habit and can lead to significant dysfunction and pain. If you use a telephone regularly at work, don’t cradle your phone on your shoulder, instead you should have a headset for your phone.
21. Don’t Carry A heavy Handbag on one shoulder
If you do then your asking for an imbalanced posture and shoulder / neck pain. Instead carry a lighter bag, preferably one with two straps. Alternatively, if you have a lot to carry or heavy items, use a carrier with wheels.
22. Don’t sleep on your stomach
I see many people who find sleeping quite uncomfortable. They often wake up with neck pain or back pain and can feel stiff and achy in the morning. Sometimes people can wake in the night and find it hard to get comfortable at all.
Firstly, Never, ever sleep on your stomach. Sleeping on your stomach increases the pressure and stress placed on the joints and tissues of your lower back and neck and you’ll end up with stiffness, pain and discomfort.
23. The Perfect number of pillows
Make sure you have one thick or two thin pillows that fill the gap between the bed and your neck while keeping you neck straight.
Too many or too few pillows will mean your neck is bent causing compression of the joints on one side and over stretching on the opposite side.
24. Sleep on your side
Knees bent slightly with one pillow between your knees.
Pull your pillow down into the shoulder to support your neck.
25. Sleep on your back
Place two pillows under the knees to reduce stress to the low back, neck and mid back. Again too many or two few pillows under your head will place your neck in an awkward position, you must keep it as straight as possible.
26. Change Your Mattress – Your Mattress is Really Old
Can’t remember the last time you replaced it? Your back may be in trouble. A good mattress lasts 9 to 10 years, but you may want to consider changing it between 5 and 7 years, especially if you suffer with back pain.
27. Firmer Mattress but not too Firm
In an ideal world your spine should be kept in a neutral position throughout the night. You want to avoid holding an uncomfortable position for too long.
If you have larger hips and shoulders then you may need a slightly softer mattress to achieve this position.
• If your mattress is too firm your lower back will have to sag to reach the mattress.
• If you have a mattress that is too soft then you will sink into it and your lower back will have to accommodate by shifting the other way – equally uncomfortable.
Firming it up
If you feel you need a firmer bed try making sure the mattress is on a solid base i.e. put a board between a softer divan base and the mattress or drag the mattress onto the floor for a few nights.
Softening it up
If you feel you need softer bed you can put a duvet over the mattress or try a memory foam mattress topper which can soften the bed up a bit.
28. Hug a Pillow (Pregnancy Pillow)
If you have a longer pillow, V-Shaped Pillow or pregnancy pillow, you can place the pillow between your knees while hugging the pillow. This will help open up the chest rather than having your arms all bunched up.
29. Car Set Up
Avoid fully straightening legs to reach pedals.
Move Seat forward so arms are not reaching out and elbows are nearly 90deg, wrists neutral.
Back against seat back and headrest should be adjusted to lightly touch back of head without forcing head into Flexion.
If you can raise your seat, sit so that your hips are higher than your knees.
30. Getting In and Out of Car
Avoid fully straightening legs to reach pedals.
Move Seat forward so arms are not reaching out and elbows are nearly 90deg, wrists neutral.
Back against seat back and headrest should be adjusted to lightly touch back of head without forcing head into Flexion.
If you can raise your seat, sit so that your hips are higher than your knees.
31. Proper lifting technique – Bend Your knees
Whether you lift every day or occasionally, knowing how to do it properly can reduce your chance of hurting your back.
Work with your upper body as close to upright as possible & minimise twisting of the upper body. Make sure you bend from the hips rather than the lower back.
For low work, bend your knees, squat, kneel or consider a longer handled tool.
32. Proper lifting technique – Keep Objects Close to Your Body
The farther the object is from your body, the greater the strain.
Slide objects close to you or step toward them before lifting.
33. Take extra care and warm up at high risk times
After a day off, first thing in the morning or just after waking up, after breaks or long periods of inactivity. Other times are after sitting or driving ( the combination of sitting and vibration is especially hard on your back.
34. Support you weight with your arms
Try to avoid rounding your back and bending forward with activities such as shaving, brushing your teeth, dressing, making the bed, or moving around in the kitchen.
Try the following:
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
Squat down slightly and stick your hips backward.
Keep your back in a neutral position.
Place one hand on the counter to brace yourself.
Keep your body as upright as possible
35. Daily Spinal Unloading
Use these techniques to take the pressure off your back at least once a day. Be gentle and hold the technique you choose for 10-30 seconds. Repeat as needed.
Sitting in a chair. Put some weight on your feet and push down with your arms until your bottom slightly clears the chair. Can do this is an office or at the traffic lights.
Standing leaning forward over a table or countertop, support part of your weight with your arms.
Lie on your back with your knees bent or lie on your back with your lower legs resting on a chair. Gently push on your thighs
36. Set an Alarm
Now I’ve given you a lot to think about, most of them revolving around frequent breaks and keeping active. Your probably thinking how will I incorporate all these strategies into my daily schedule.
Make a short checklist (i’ve got an example below) and set an alarm. Simple but effective, set an alarm to go off every 30 minutes. When it goes off do the following in this order:
– Get Up and take a short walk / change posture
– Postural Break
– do some of your stretches
– Continue with what you were doing
Now this will only take a minute or two of your time so you can easily fit it in. Just have to be disciplined and stick with it.
37. Reminders – Check Your Posture
Set reminders throughout the day to check your posture. This could be an alarm as mentioned above but even wearing a posture bracelet like we have in the clinic or putting stickers on your computer screen to remind you to check your posture. Alternatively, have an automated email alert that comes through every 30 minutes.
38. ICE if Acute
If you have recently just injured yourself, Apply Ice To the area lessen discomfort and inflammation: Maximum of 20minutes, 3-4 times each day with a 1 hour break in between. Do this for 1-3days.
Use a Bag of peas or an ice pack, wrap it in a damp tea cloth and place on the area of discomfort. The tea cloth prevents any ice burns but when damp it transfers the cold really well.
39. Heat if Chronic
If it is a Long Standing Injury or Arthritis then you can Apply Heat to lessen the discomfort and relax the muscles. Do this for a maximum of 20 minutes, as often as needed with an 1 hour break in between. Use a hot water bottle. Again if you have just injured yourself then ICE, but after the initial 2-3 days or a long standing injury then you can use heat or even alternate between ice and heat (heat first for 20, then ice for 20 the rest for 1 hour – repeat).
40. Get your posture assessed
All healthcare professionals worldwide agree that a balanced postural system enhances health and function, and the opposite holds true, that without proper postural alignment the body degenerates at an accelerated rate.
Good Posture therefore, is a fundamental component to optimal health.
What many people may not know, is that we are actually putting our bodies at risk for early onset of degeneration if we don’t take care of our posture.Our bodies were simply not designed to withstand the postural habits of todays society.
Make sure you se a trained professional to have your posture assessed and quickly identify andy postural disruption patterns you may have developing. Get it sorted early to avoid bigger problems in the future.
41. Regular Chiropractic Care
For many of us, the underlying cause of our dysfunction, pain and discomfort is the cumulative effects of our lifestyle. Poor Posture, sitting for too long, sports, stress, repetitive moments as well as many other everyday activities can stress and overload our bodies. Regular chiropractic care can help maintain a healthy body, removing small areas of dysfunction and overload before they become bigger problems.
42. Have your feet assessed by a podiatrist
As a house is built on a solid, well structured foundation, the same is true of our bodies. The Correct alignment and distribution of your feet is essential for an optimal postural alignment.
A podiatrist specialises in lower limb biomechanics and the importance of maintaining a healthy foot.
43. Specially designed insoles
Your podiatrist may suggest specially designed insoles or inserts to be worn in your footwear if they think that your feet are particularly bad or even provide you with a slight heel lift if you have been found to have a structural leg length inequality.
Ultimately, the first step to take is a podiatrist visit — with the right diagnosis and recommendations for footwear, it could be the last step you take in pain.
44. Wear Correct Footwear
Though your feet and favourite stilettos can seem far removed from you back, they really can be related and contributing to your pain. If your feet are mechanically unsound, which many peoples are, then they change the alignment of al the structures above them. Wearing shoes that don’t give the proper support can exacerbate the problem.
For example, flip flops (sandals) are so flat that the lack of support can lead to the arch of your foot dropping in (over-pronating) resulting in the knees dropping in and putting excess pressure on your hips and lower back. The most important feature to look for is the arch – it should be designed to support the natural arch of your feet.
45. Correct Running Shoes
If you like to run or compete then it is highly recommended to have your gait analysed by a trained professional. This will allow them to suggest the type of trainers that will help support your feet while out running.
The amount of force placed through the joints of your feet while running is 7 times your body weight so its essential that you have the right support and cushioning to stabilise your feet and your lower limb biomechanics.
Running shoes are generally designed to address many different issues, with motion control helping pronation, stability for the neutral arch and cushioned to assist supination arches.
Get assessed by a trained professional and purchase a decent pair of trainers. Always remember to change them regularly depending on the milage you complete.
46. Have a regular massage
A regular massage helps relieve stress, reduces tight and aching muscles, improves flexibility and posture and encourages relaxation. By having a regular massage you are preventing the build up poor postural habits and repetitive overuse of muscles.
47. Tight Muscles – Use a Massage Ball Or Tennis ball
If you can’t afford a regular massage or can’t find the time then a tennis ball and foam roller come in real handy for some at home self massage.
I have a few videos demonstrating how to use a tennis ball or foam roller for many of the most common areas that need it, such as:
– Upper Traps & Levator Scapulae (Tennis Ball)
– Pecs (Chest) (Tennis Ball)
– Upper Back (Foam Roller)
– Hamstrings (Tennis Ball)
– Quads & ITB (Foam Roller)
– Plantar Fascia (Tennis Ball)
– Glutes (Tennis Ball)
Videos Are Below:
48. Don’t let your joints stiffen up
Your Joints need movement to help lubricate them and keep them supple. If one joint becomes restricted, fixed and seizes up then more pressure is placed on the adjacent joints within your spine which will ultimately follow suit. Any restricted movement of a joint greater accelerates the amount of wear and tear in that area. By Keeping active you will help keeping joints as mobile as possible.
Mobility exercises are highly recommended:-
49. Prevent Back Pain On Holiday
Back pain on holiday is very common. One of the biggest causes is the lack of activity and an already stiff spine. mobilise the spine regularly throughout your holiday to prevent it from spoiling your holiday.
First thing in the morning, before it is too hot, go for an half hour walk or swim to wake your back muscles up and mobilise the joints that have stiffened up over night.
Try and incorporate a few core postural exercises throughout the day.
Most resorts also have aqua aerobics, fitness classes, yoga or pilates so torry and get involved in these throughout your stay.
50. Hotel Beds and back pain
Back pain is often caused by a poor mattress. If the bed is too hard putting a duvet under the bottom sheet can help soften it up a bit. I fit is too soft then pulling it off the base and onto the floor may improve matters. If all else fails then complain and ask for a different bed.
51. Sunbathing on Holiday
Sunbathing can be disastrous for people with back pain. when sunbathing on your back, you should raise the back support slightly up – from the horizontal to 35 degrees. You should also try rolling up two beach towels to place under both knees, so that your knees are slightly bent. This will all reduce the load on your back.
If sunbathing on your front, it is recommended that you fold two beach towels, so there are approximately 8 layers of towel beneath your stomach. This will help stop your lower back from jamming the joints together.
Remember, break up prolonged sunbathing with walking or swimming as lying in one position for too long may exacerbate your lower back pain.
52. Pre-Holiday Check Up
If your spine is already a bit stiff before you travel you are much more likely to get pain whilst you are away. We recommend a pre-holiday check up even if you are currently pain free. A bit of prevention can go a long way in keeping you pain free. Aim to schedule an appointment 2 weeks before you holiday so it gives your body time to settle before jetting off.
53. Limit The TV
In one Norwegian study of teens, those who sat in front of the TV or Computer for 15 hours a week or more were 3 times as likely to have lower-back pain as their more active counterparts (the average teenager watches 3 hours of telly a day).
Limit how much TV you watch by only watching something you really want to watch, not idly channel surfing. In the breaks get up and do some stretching or strengthening exercises which will prevent any muscle strain from sitting too long.
For kids who complain of back pain, make sure they walk at least one mile a day; this can cut back pain in half and gives their spine a chance to stretch out.
54. Ironing Pain Free
Ensure that the ironing board is adjusted to the correct height. If it won’t go high enough, buy one that will, they’re not expensive and it will help save your back.
Try keeping your weight spread evenly on both feet. Furthermore, several short sessions of ironing are better than one lengthy one.
55. Vacuum Cleaning / Hoovering Pain Free
Using an upright vacuum cleaner means less bending down than with cylinder type. On the minus side, a standard upright may be heavier to push around, though there are lightweight varieties. Get help moving large pieces of furniture, so you can vacuum underneath them and avoid twisting your body. Also a cleaner with a long hose works better for cleaning the stairs rather than balancing the cleaner on the steps with one hand while cleaning.
56. Dusting / Making Beds / Cleaning Baths Pain Free
Kneel down for these chores. That way, you’ll create less strain on your spine than when stooping over and bending your back. Bend your knees or kneel to tuck in sheets, clean the bath bend your hips and knees and keep your back straight, support your weight with an arm.
57. Shopping Pain Free
Use a trolley rather than a basket, so you’re not carrying a load unnecessary and don’t load them too full. Be careful lifting your goods out of the trolley at the checkout or the car, bend from the hips and try not to round your back.
If you are carrying shopping bags, even the load out. Carry one in each hand.
58. Washing the dishes Pain Free
Don’t stoop, raise the washing bowl up by placing an upturned bowl underneath it. Try to limit washing the dishes to 30 minutes and if need be split it into two sessions.
59. Flying Pain Free
When flying, recline your seat as far back as possible for as long a possible. This will reduce the load through your lower back and make you less vulnerable to injury. You may want to place a rolled up towel or pillow in your lower back to help maintain the natural curve in your lower back. Make sure you get up regularly and have a walk.
60. Lose Excess Weight
Excess weight increases the load on your spine and joints, taxing your muscles and placing excess pressure on the soft tissues around your spine. This is especially true for there lower back when you hold extra weight around the mid-section, which pulls the pelvis forward, exaggerating the natural curve of your lower back, altering the alignment of your spine and creating more stress on the lower back. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise not only reduces existing back pain, but also can help prevent certain types of back problems in the future. For example, being overweight has been linked with an increased risk for osteoarthritis as you age.
61. Exercise Daily
Want to Look Better, Feel Better and Even Live Better? Look no further than exercise. The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore.
Long Workouts aren’t necessary but daily exercise is not only important for how you look and move but also for your health. A program of strengthening, stretching and aerobic exercise will improve your overall health.
#1 Exercise Controls Weight – Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss.
#2 Exercise combats health conditions and diseases – regular physical activity can help you prevent or manage a wide range of health problems including stroke, diabetes, depression, arthritis, heart diseases and so on.
#3 Exercise Improves Mood – physical activity stimulates various chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.
#4 Exercise Boosts Energy – exercise deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently.
#5 Exercise promotes better sleep – regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deeper. Just don’t exercise too close to bedtime, or you may be too energised to fall asleep.
Daily exercise is a great way to feel better, move better and maintain a healthy lifestyle. As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. This can mean the gym, running, a class, swimming and so on.
62. Regular Aerobic Exercise
It is advisable to try and get a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise every week (run, swim, walk, cycle etc). Exercising for just 30 minutes per day for 5 days will meet this guideline.
A 30-minute walk, run, swim or cycle isn’t difficult to include in most schedules; try fitting your workout in before work, during your lunch break or in the evening.
Running | Walking | Swimming | Cycling | Climbing | Dancing | Skating
Doing 30 minutes of cardio exercise daily contributes heavily to your overall health. Benefits of this type of workout include boosting your cardiovascular endurance, regulating your cholesterol, improving your heart health and lowering your blood pressure. Cardio workouts also have emotional well-being benefits. As you exercise, your body releases endorphins that can rapidly improve your mood and ease your stress.
63. Avoid Excess Running
Yes yes, many of you are probably thinking, ‘but i love running’, unfortunately many people of days society aren’t built or conditioned to perform any significant amount of running due to our lifestyle choices. I won’t go into details here but since many of us are walking around with significant muscular imbalances and postural distortion patterns, performing any significant amount of running on a regular basis will likely result in some sort of injury. Running is an activity that involves high impact, repetitive stress to the body, sometimes for a long duration.
Now i’m not saying not to run but, not to do excessive running, alternate with lower impact activities and make sure you address you underlying muscular and postural dysfunctions as well as core conditioning before making running a regular part of your exercise regime.
For people who have an underlying lower back problem can find running or jogging makes their pain worse or leads to additional types of pain. In this case, I would recommend addressing all the points highlighted above before resuming your running.
64. Swimming is a great alternative
Regular swimming is great alternative to running for cardiovascular health while keeping your joints mobile and muscles conditioned. It’s low impact compared to running which equates to the less chance of injuries, especially if your carrying excess weight which already puts increased pressures on your joints.
The main reasons why swimming is a good choice:
Active Stretching (Full range of motion for many different body parts)
Just enough resistance to provide aerobic and muscular conditioning
One thing to remember, for many people swimming breaststroke can aggravate back pain. Front Crawl or back stroke would suit better, in addition, it is best to swim with your head in the water rather than keeping your head above water as this will strain your neck and upper back.
Alternatively, treading water or gentle jogging in the pool is a good form of exercise especially if on holiday.
65. Avoid Crunches and sit ups
Dr Stuart McGill has shown that traditional sit-ups and crunches cause spine loading conditions that greatly elevate the risk of injury through large compressive forces on the spine. Furthermore, Dr Stuart McGill, has stated that to herniate a disc, excessive load is not needed and that repeated forward flexion of the spine is a much more potent mechanism to cause back injury.
During crunches and sit-ups you are repeatedly over stretching the posterior ligaments, tendons, discs and soft tissue of the lower back and repeatedly compressing the anterior portion of the discs.
Instead try and incorporate back friendly core exercises instead of crunches and sit ups.
If you would like to read more about the risks of crunches and sit-ups and discover some safe effective core exercises then you can do so here —> The Death of Crunches and Sit-ups
66. Build A Bulletproof Core
When people think of training their ‘core’ they instantly think of the Crunch or Sit-Up, one of the most popular ab training exercises. Simple to perform, it has long been touted as the key to a strong core.
Unfortunately, this is wrong!
Spinal Stability is Key during core exercises.
People should be performing more:
- Anti Rotational Exercises
- Anti Extension Exercises
- Anti Lateral Flexion Exercises
Some of my favourite exercises are the easiest to incorporate into your workouts and require little if no equipment.
- Plank Variations (especially ‘Stir The Pot’)
- Side Plank Variations
- Bridge Variations
- Dead Bugs
67. More Glute Activation
Every Person I meet could benefit from some more glute activation in their life. The majority of people with lower back pain have glutes that don’t ‘turn on’ (otherwise known as glute amnesia or inhibition). Additionally, your hamstrings likely ‘feel’ tight because the glutes don’t fire.
Start with exercises like the clams, side lying leg raises and glute bridges – video here.
68. Strengthen Postural Muscles
Good Posture is no doubt important, and one of the best ways to fix your posture is to exercise the muscles that control it.
The majority of people with neck and shoulder pain have rhomboids and mid and lower traps that don’t ‘turn on’ and are de-conditioned. By strengthening and activating these muscles we can bring the shoulders back in the correct position taking the pressure off the joints, muscles and ligaments in the upper back and lower neck.
The majority of people with lower back pain have glutes and core musculature that don’t ‘turn on’ and are de-conditioned. By strengthening and activating these muscles, we can help correct the alignment of the pelvis and lower back and prevent further injuries.
One of the most neglected and overlooked muscles that is so important for optimised movement, stability and posture is the serrates anterior.
To Test the Conditioning of this muscle try performing 60 strict Push – Up Plus exercises. If you can’t do it or the technique fails then your serratus anterior muscles need work.
A video of the Push Up Plus can be found here —> Best Exercise for Posture
69. Correct Your forward Head Carriage
If you suffer from a forward head carriage as seen in the image below, then you are placing substantial pressure on the joints in your upper back and neck as well as the soft tissues of your shoulders and neck. Every inch your head moves forward the compressive forces on the lower neck increase by the additional weight of the entire head. It’s has actually been suggested that every inch your head moves forward it adds an additional 10lbs of pressure.
Here’s a quick and easy self assessment:
1. Side View – Are your ears forward from your shoulders?
2. Does your head poke forward?
3. Do you have rounded shoulders?
4. Do you suffer with neck and / or shoulder pain? Headaches?
If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions there is a good chance you have a forward head carriage.
The Push Up Plus Exercise I Mentioned above is a fantastic exercise to help combat this. In addition, I would highly recommend doing the chin tuck exercise. The Link to a video is below:
Perform this exercise daily: 1 Set of 20 repetitions with a 5 second hold.
70. Stretch regularly
From slouching at your desk to overdoing it at the gym, many everyday activities can lead to back pain. Adequate flexibility of tissues around the spine and pelvis allows full normal spinal movement, prevents abnormal force on the joints and decreases the possibility of injury.
Below are a few videos you can watch to help with your stretching routine:
To get the maximum benefit from stretching, proper technique is essential.
Keep the following stretching tips in mind:
Stretch slowly and gently to the point of mild tension, not to the point of pain.
Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds.
Don’t hold your breath. Inhale deeply before each stretch and exhale during the stretch.
71. Strength Training
A well-rounded fitness program includes strength training to improve bone, joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength.
Each strength training session should use the larger muscle groups targeting the 4 main muscle groups of your body, your legs, chest, back and core. As for exercise selection, you should concentrate on compound movements that emphasise the majority of the muscle mass on your body (presses, rows, squats, and deadlifts) therefore dramatically affecting your metabolism and burning the most energy.
Resistance Training Increases muscle strength by making your muscles work against a weight or force.
Different forms include free weights, weight machines, resistance bands and your own body weight.
You need to train at least 2-3 times per week to gain the maximum benefits.
Benefits of Strength Training includes:-
- Improved muscle strength and tone
- Improved Weight Management
- Greater Stamina
- Prevention or control of chronic conditions
- Pain Management
- Improved Mobility and Balance
- Improved Posture
- decreased risk of injury
- Increased Bone density – reduced risk of osteoporosis
72. Build Up Slowly
Increase the amount of exercise you do each day gradually, blitzing it will only lead to injury. Avoid high impact sports such as running, hockey, football, until you have regained some core stability and strength and muscular conditioning.
73. Core / Postural Workouts 3- 4 times a week
Ideally, you would want to incorporate 3-4 core or postural workouts into your routine each week. Again, these don’t have to be long sessions. 5-10 minutes of direct core / postural work is ample. Its more about quality and frequency than quantity. If you want to lose weight you don’t do one marathon session, you do frequent shorter more intense workouts.
A Core / Postural Workout can even be incorporated into the warm-up of another session.
If your in need of a new core workout check out these examples:
Alternatively, I have put together a full perfect posture program which includes all the exercises you will ever need to correct your posture and build a bulletproof core.
74. Everyone should be able to do some regular maintenance on themselves daily
Everyone should be able to spend 10-15 minutes a day improving their posture and movement. we spend all day accumulating strain on the joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles of the body and should spend at least a small portion of the day to keep it functioning at its best and pain free. You just have to be committed and consistent, you don’t get a day off from working on your posture. It only takes 10 to 15 minutes a day, but its a 7 day a week process. The key is to just start somewhere, work on addressing the problems of today, set a alarm and 15 minutes later be done. Then tomorrow work on something that is a problem tomorrow. Your chiropractor, injury therapist, physic or osteopath can give you something to start on today but if it was me, I would look at the exercises I have addressed in this article and start on those on a consistent basis.
75. Active Warm Up
Truth be told, we all know we should warm-up, and many of you probably do ‘warm-up’ in some shape or form. However,a quick jog on the treadmill for 10-15 minutes and a few stretches before a workout does not constitute a proper warm-up and does nothing in terms of preparing you for the more dynamic nature of what you’ll be doing in your actual training session. You can spend this time working on your weakness and imbalances or you can just add to these imbalances.
More specifically, a warm-up should target the areas of the body which tend to be most problematic: namely, the glutes, hips, thoracic spine, shoulders, and core.
A proper warmup should increase your heart rate, blood flow, muscle temperature as well increase the extensibility, flexibility and mobility of joints and muscles, therefore preparing your body for a more vigorous activity, allowing it to work more efficiently, and reduces the risk of injury.
76. Overall Exercise Schedule for a Pain Free Back
Ok so i’ve highlighted the need for regular aerobic exercise, strength training, postural and core training as well as an active warm up. Now i just want to show you an overall plan of how it should look over the course of a week.
Monday: 5-10 Minutes Core / Postural Work (Can Be Included as part of a warm up)
30 Minutes Cardio
(Total 35- 40 Minutes)
Tuesday: 5-10 Minutes Core / Postural Work (Can Be Included as part of a warm up)
30 Minutes Strength Training
(Total 35- 40 Minutes)
Wednesday: 5-10 Minutes Core / Postural Work
Thursday: 5-10 Minutes Core / Postural Work (Can Be Included as part of a warm up)
30 Minutes Cardio
(Total 35- 40 Minutes)
Friday: 5-10 Minutes Core / Postural Work (Can Be Included as part of a warm up)
30 Minutes Strength Training
(Total 35- 40 Minutes)
Saturday: 5-10 Minutes Core / Postural Work (Can Be Included as part of a warm up)
30 Minutes Cardio
(Total 35- 40 Minutes)
Sunday: 5-10 Minutes Core / Postural Work
Now firstly, this is the an example of an ideal plan in a perfect world and I know many of you will be thinking ‘how can I fit this in’, but I firstly wanted to highlight what your schedule would look like. So here it is.
This may look like a lot, but lets be real, its only 40 minutes of exercise a day, which is …% of your time each day. And the aerobic sessions can include a 30 minute walk, a at home pilates class, or a dance lesson. The strength training can be done at home using your body weight or some minimal equipment.
Any excuse you come up with is exactly that, an EXCUSE. If you can’t do a few exercises in your house and then go for a 30 minute walk on a regular basis then its plain laziness. Im sorry but its true. I’m not asking you to go out and run a marathon. I say it time and time again, the more active you are on a regular basis the less pain you feel and the better your body moves and feels. You have time to sit in front of the TV for a few hours each evening, GET UP And GET MOVING.
77. No Time – Poor Excuse
We all lead very busy, hectic lifestyle….that may never change. In your life, there will always be too much to do., however, when we break it down , there is always time to work on your posture and health.
In a week there are 168 hours:
Sleeping 56 hours
Working 40 hours
Eating, showering , travelling etc 35 hours
37 hours free time.
There is always enough time to care for your body.
78. Take up yoga or pilates
If you struggle to adhere to an at home exercise program or even find your motivation to hit the gym waining I would highly recommend finding a local class you can join. The right group makes it that much easier to show up, keep showing up, try new things and get results. All the research on motivation, willpower and behavioural changes highlight the benefits of community support.
For anyone suffering with lower back pain I would highly recommend Pilates and/or Yoga. Both forms of low impact activity that are back friendly and will both help with strengthening your core and improving the flexibility of your soft tissues around your spine.
79. No Pain, No Gain, Not Necessarily
It is well known among athletes that some discomfort is part of athletic activities and is often part of a successful training program. The mild soreness you experience the following day or two after a workout is the basis of the popular phrase ‘no pain, no gain’. This pain should be short-lived and resolve within a couple of days.
For example, when muscles that have not been exercised for long periods of time, are put under stress, they respond by getting sore. Muscle soreness typically occurs if you do a new exercise to which you are not accustomed or if you do a familiar exercise too hard.
This soreness typically begins within a few hours but peaks one to two days after exercise.
A little soreness or discomfort means that the muscle has been stressed, which is a usual training response, but if the muscle is worked too much, the muscle can become very sore to move and touch and may even swell. This is the pain you want to avoid, overtraining is very common and working a muscle until it hurts doesn’t lead to better results.
80. Get a good Nights Sleep
Adequate Sleep is essential to Promote Healing. A good nights sleep is between 7 to 9 hours for optimal health. One of the best ways to encourage sleep is to tire yourself out through physical activity.
Chronic inactivity does not create a need for a deep sleep that is so helpful for physical and emotional healing. Clearly, stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine should be avoided at bedtime.
81. Back Healthy Diet
It’s amazing how many of our health issues can be attributed to a poor diet. These days we find everyone has a diet that is highly inflammatory from the excess amounts of sugar and highly processed foods, its a no wonder are bodies break down so easily.Recent research has shown that our dietary habits promote a state of chronic inflammation in your body. The food we eat is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to controlling inflammation, pain and healing.
Everyone would be better off focusing on a back healthy diet which focuses on decreasing inflammation in the body while also supplementing with some fish oil would be a fantastic way to help promote a more anti-inflammatory environment in the body.
82. Cut Down Processed Foods
You should try and cut out all processed foods especially wheat based products (white pasta, bread, white rice, potatoes), sugar and processed drinks.
ALL processed foods.
Partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) found in margarine, deep fried foods (French fries, etc.)
Sugar, from any source.
Corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, and foods made with these oils- such as mayonnaise, tartar sauce and margarine
83. Protein, healthy fats and complex carbs every meal
Eat regularly through out the day 5-6 small meals every 3-4 hours. Each meal should contain protein, some healthy low glycemic carbohydrates and healthy fats. Eating supportive foods every 3 to 4 hours burns more calories and creates a healthy, thriving metabolism.
84. Drink Plenty of Water
Have you ever noticed your pain, inflammation, fatigue and food cravings are increased and you’re not sure why? It could be as simple as needing more water.
This is very simple but very important. Healing really does start on the inside and getting adequate water is an easy place to find consistency.
A lack of water and dehydration can be attributed to a lot of pains and discomforts within the body. Make sure you drink plenty of water. 8 glasses a day is a good start but drink more if you can as even 1% dehydration can impact the hydration of our discs and lower back pain. Ideally Aim to drink 3 litres of purified water daily. The Best way to do this is to carry a 1 litre bottle of water around with you and aim to finish it 3 times a day.
85. Decrease Caffeine (Tea & Coffee)
If you are going to be drinking all that water then you’ll have to decrease the amount of tea and coffee you drink throughout the day. No it doesn’t count towards your water consumption. Beverages contain caffeine actually count against your water intake as they have a diuretic effect and dehydrate you. I’m not saying to stop drinking them but rather cut it down or switch to green tea instead. I tend to drink 1 cup of coffee a day in the morning and then depending on how well i’m doing with my water target i may have another cup of coffee later in the day.
86. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)
The body uses EFAs to make chemicals that control inflammation. “Essential” means that the body cannot make these substances on its own, and therefore must get them from food or food supplements.
There are two main groups of EFAs:
◦ Omega-3 fatty acids: These fatty acids are found mostly in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring, and sea algae. All members of this class of essential fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation.
◦ Omega-6 fatty acids: These fatty acids are found in common cooking oils such as corn and safflower, from plant seed oils, such as evening primrose oil, and black currant.
If you feel you may not be getting enough essential fatty acids then it is highly recommended to supplement these, but first speak to a health professional who can recommend whether they are suitable for you and a recommended brand.
87. Stop Smoking
Smokers are almost three times more likely to develop low back pain than nonsmokers. According to the University of Michigan Health System, the nicotine in cigarette smoke thickens the walls of the blood vessels. This restricts blood flow through the large and small blood vessels of the lower back and increases the amount of time for healing and recovery if you have a back injury.
88. Moderation is Best
Too Much of a good thing can be bad for you. Too much of anything can be bad for you, especially back pain. Too much exercises, too much rest, too much stress, too much sunbathing, too much sitting, to much food and so on. Aim for moderation in everything you do. Look at this list of do’s and don’ts and figure out which ones your doing too much of or too little of and get changing your daily habits.
89. Keep Stress to a Minimum
Have you every noticed how your back pain flares up during stressful times? Stress to the body can be in the form of emotional, physical or chemical stress or all of the above to varying degrees. Most people who are under stress and don’t manage it effectively. They tend to sleep poorly, have a poor diet and get little exercise. Add stress-related muscle tightness to the mix and back problems can result. The body can cope with a certain amount of stress without too many consequences, however, the more ‘stress’ you experience, the more likely your body will break down.
1. Make time for yourself – perform simple breathing exercises, take a yoga class, meditate. Figure out what helps you relax and make sure you make time for it.
2. Reach out – having a good support system is very important for your stress levels. Reaching out and talking to others can lift your mood and help you handle stressful situations better.
3. Organise – try to take things one step at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Keeping organised and setting yourself some realistic goals will help you feel more in control.
90. Don’t Panic
Most back pain / injuries are not due to serious injury or disease, rather a result of poor body mechanics and posture. These injuries can be treated and you shouldn’t panic. Controlling anxiety and fear of re-injury or causing further damage is very important in regaining normal function and healing.
The basis for these psychological reactions to back pain lies in the nervous system, which responds responds to pain by instructing the muscles near the affected part to protect against further injury. Only appropriate functional re-training can overcome this neurological barrier to normal function and therefore should be encouraged.
91. Active Rest
When you are experiencing back pain, your first instinct may be to crawl back into bed, but actually research has conformed that staying active is usually best to keep your back healthy. Bed Rest has been shown to be ineffective for back pain and can actually delay recovery. So the sooner you get going, the better.
92. Don’t Ignore the pain
On the flip side, for most people, they recognise that while back pain is a setback, it will be a temporary one. However, refusing to acknowledge that you have to slow down, could result in your back pain becoming chronic and/or more severe. So take your pain as a sign that you need to change your speed and intensity for a bit. It doesn’t mean you can’t be active, but you may need to adjust your activities a bit.
93. Accept the Pain
Accepting the pain may be the best way to mentally cope. Accept it, realise things need to change, make a plan, start making daily consistent effort. Pain is only temporary, it won’t last for every, use it to make you a better, healthier version of yourself.
94. Do Not Focus On The Pain
Do not dwell on your Pain or ill health and you’ll minimise the effects it has on your lifestyle. Think positive and remember you will improve with time. Distract yourself by reading, listening to music, keeping active. The more you focus on the pain the more you’ll experience pain.
“You become what you think about most.. But you also attract what you think about most.”
― Rhonda Byrne, The Secret
95. Get Back to work
Getting back to work quickly keeps you involved with others, gets you in a regular routine, keeps you active and helps you focus on something other than your back pain. If you can’t manage full days at work at first, talk to your employer about easing back into your job. This could involve working part of the days at first, or it could mean that for a time you avoid doing those parts of your job that will make your back feel worse, like heavy lifting. If your work involves lots of sitting, make sure you get up and stretch regularly and follow the advise further up the list.
96. Positive Mental Attitude
Keep a positive attitude and expect positive results. Look for signs of improvement and take encouragement from them. Your attitude and belief has in incredibly strong influence on your body and is a key factor in healing.
“Whenever you think you can or think you can’t, either way you are right.”
― Henry Ford
“Your thoughts become things!”
― Rhonda Byrne, The Secret
There are no shortcuts but a consistent effort will bring you results.
99. Give it time
Yes it can be frustrating , but healing is a process, not a magic pill. It take time for you body to fully recover and heal correctly, and is influenced by many factors, such as Age, Previous Health History, Previous Injuries, Diet, Lifestyle, Work and so on. Seeing a professional can help speed recovery up, but within medical treatment, it relies on the bodies ability to heal. Over the course of a care plan you will see improvements, however the rate of improvements are different for each individual.
100. Putting it All Together
Start by taking a few of these principles and aim for consistency rather than trying to do too much. After a week or two of consistent work on those habits recap this list and add a couple more.
A common theme of these principles is to move more. The more you move, the better you’ll be. This is the first principle I would aim to adopt. Its also so simple to implement.
Drink more water.
Get Assessed by your chiropractor to discover which postural patterns you present with so you can tailor your exercise regime to match. The Perfect Posture Program is ideal for this.
Focus On More Glute Activation and Core Conditioning. Aim to perform core workouts 3-4 times a week at least. Most people will see huge benefits from having a stronger core.
101 – Recap this List of Principles Regularly – No Seriously
Check this list regularly to keep it fresh in your mind. Be consistent and make daily progress. Add a few principles at a time and continue to do so until they take the place of your previous habits.