The 9-5 guide to back care

Lady typing at a laptop

Around four out of every five adults will experience back pain during their lifetime. But how can we prevent problems, and retain healthy backs in our hectic lives?

Believe it or not back pain is the leading cause of long-term sickness in the UK. The NHS reported that back pain was responsible for more than 15 million lost work days in 2013/14.

Generally, the most common causes of back pain are strained muscles or ligaments, wear and tear, bad posture and stress. But whether in the office, the car or commuting, what are the best methods to prevent the intrusion of back pain? 

At the desk

Office life demands that most of us sit for long periods in sedentary positions. No matter how good your posture and positioning, it is vital that you break-up long periods of sitting with regular breaks. The general consensus by health expertsis that sitting should be broken up with standing breaks every 30 minutes for 1 or 2 minutes.

Office care

Seating posture: Ensure the lower back is supported, whilst keeping knees slightly lower than the hips.

Screen position: The monitor should be about an arm’s length away, and the top of the screen at eye level.

Keyboard location: Keep wrists straight when typing, with elbows staying tucked in by the side of the body.

In the car

When sitting for long periods, there are a few things to be considered to improve the health of your spine.

To help maintain optimal support when you’re driving, the bottom of the spine should be positioned so it meets the back of the seat, and so to support the natural curvature of the spine.

The angle of the seat is also important. The base of the seat shouldn’t press against the back of the knees. Adjusting the seat forward to reduce the proximity to the pedals also helps to support and control spinal posture.

On the commute

Those of us that travel on the tube know the strains that long periods of cramped standing can inflict on the back.

Maintaining a good balanced position when holding bags helps to even the load of extra weight, whilst imbalance can force extra muscle stress. Alternating arms regularly ensures that weight is equally distributed throughout the journey.

Choose supportive footwear to improve balance and comfort during prolonged travelling periods. And despite the delight in spotting a vacant seat, if you have been sitting down all day it is advisable to spend some of the journey home standing.

Good movement is key to a healthy spine.

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