13 years ago I found myself lying on the floor staring at the ceiling wondering how it was that fit and healthy 26 year old could have a back so bad that this was the only way out of pain. I had a great job and only a few months earlier I’d been running a couple of miles a day training for Sydney City to Surf race. Now the pain was so bad that leaving my job and focusing on getting better was the only option I could see.
Fast forward to 2018 and I’m entering my 5th year of freedom from back pain. Woo hoo!! I’ve learned a ton in the last few years and I want to share a few tips with you today because, let’s face it, life’s too short to be suffering with a back back …
1. Stand well (when you’re standing!) Stand so that your hips are directly over your ankles. You should feel like your weight is going through your heels and your toes should be liftable.
2. Sit well (when you’re sitting). Sit on your sit bones. Too far back and you will be squashing your spine (not a good idea, it houses your central nervous system after all) and too far forward and your lumbar spine will be over extended, again not great.
3. Oil your hips! Ok, so of course I don’t literally mean get a can of oil, but this is important. If your hips are stiff then your back (& spine) will have to work harder to compensate. Particularly work on bending at the hips (not the back) and moving your leg behind you – these are the two moves are sedentary cultural habits seem to cost us.
4. Oil your shoulders – move your arms. Again clearly I’m not expecting you to get a can of oil, but this is important too! If your shoulders are tight then your back will compensate for the movements your arms should be able to do. Moving your arms in all directions without moving your shoulders is the place to start… focus particularly on raising your arms above your head without lifting your shoulders and swinging your arms behind you without twisting your body.
5. Move more! This is exactly what it says! Your body needs varied regular movement throughout the day. Get up every 20 minutes, wriggle your toes whilst your sitting, reach your arms overhead, sit in different positions .. you’ve got it, just move move move!
6. Do something that makes you happy! Yes, this is so true. When we’re stressed our body holds tension which means it cannot move well. Not moving well ofter leads to discomfort and pain. Doing something that makes us happy reduces the tension in our bodies and helps us move better :).
And finally… your employer has a legal obligation to enable you to work comfortably. Not only has our knowledge in how the human body works (& what it needs) improved vastly over the last decade, but the equipment and tools available to suport comfortable working have also grown exponentially. Having a bad back in the workplace is not something that is either fun or productive… it’s in everyone’s interests to get it sorted so please find the help you need and get going:)