New consumer research from the British Chiropractic Association shows that 71% of those suffering with back pain have been doing so for up to 10 years but, amazingly, many admit to not taking proactive measures to take care of their backs.
The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) is encouraging people to practice greater self-care and incorporate simple steps into their daily routine to help prevent back and neck pain before it causes longer term problems.
The new findings by the neck and back care experts at the BCA revealed that 40% of people surveyed admit they have never done anything to actively protect their backs. Even more worryingly, just under a third (29%) confessed that they have been unable to work due to their back pain. Research from the UK Statistics Authority has also shown that the number of sick days taken due to back pain increased by 29% in the last year, from 7.7 million in 2013 to 9.9 million in 2014*.
Matthew Kerry, 37, an IT consultant from Swindon, was suffering from a prolapsed disc before he went to see his local chiropractor Sally Hobbs: “I’ve always been an active person, but a modern lifestyle and sitting at a desk all day really took its toll on my back. I have suffered with back pain on and off for two years, and when my back pain was at its worst, I couldn’t walk more than 25 metres! At the time I was due to walk my wife down the aisle but I could barely move – that’s when I knew I needed help. After going to the GP I discovered I had a prolapsed disc so I had a cortisone injection; but two weeks later, my muscles had seized and I still couldn’t walk properly. That’s when I made the decision to visit my chiropractor, Sally, who finally helped free up my spine and managed to get me moving again.”
Over half (54%) think that sitting in the same position for long periods of time has the most negative impact on their back health. Despite recognising the source of pain, almost one in 10 (8%) of those who spend the day mainly in one position don’t take regular breaks.
In terms of what measures people would consider taking to protect their backs, while 7% would see a trained health professional, many more said they would try home remedies such as heat treatment (53%), rest (48%) or over the counter medication (39%) to solve their back problems.
BCA chiropractor Rishi Loatey says: “As modern lifestyles put increasing amounts of strain on our backs and necks it’s becoming even more important for people to take proactive measures to protect their back health. Yet, we are seeing more and more people who have been struggling with back pain for longer periods of time. Prevention is always better than cure and it’s encouraging to see that some people told us they are taking steps to maintain a healthy posture, including limiting the amount of time they spend on laptops. However, there are a number of other simple processes that people can incorporate into their daily routine to reduce the effect that back and neck pain can have on their everyday lives. For example, people are often surprised at the positive impact that simply ensuring you take regular breaks when sitting for long periods of time, or walking regularly can have on your back.”
So, how can we battle back pain before it becomes a problem?
The BCA offers the following top tips to help people keep back pain at bay:
• Stop the slouch: Relax when sitting into your seat, making sure you have your bottom against the seat back with your shoulder blades touching the back rest of the chair. Try to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. For drivers; the back of the seat should be set slightly backwards, so that it feels natural and your elbows should be at a comfortable and relaxed angle for driving.
• Get up, stand up: Don’t sit for more than 20-30 minutes at a time – stand up to stretch, change position and walk around a little. If you struggle to get away then take time to gently massage the back of your head and neck as you relax your stomach region with slow easy breathing. This will help to improve posture and reduce back pain by promoting balance, strength and flexibility in the spine.
• Walk on: Adding just a few minutes walking to your daily routine could be of benefit. For example, walk to the shops instead of driving; try walking a little faster to boost the exercise benefit; take the stairs instead the lift.
• Drink up!: Try drinking water instead of tea or coffee; it will be healthier and keep your body hydrated.
* Source: Letter from the Office of National Statistics 2015
1. Office of National Statistics 2015
2. The research was carried out between: 07/01/2015 and 20/01/2015. Sample: 2,127 UK adults aged 18 – 65 on behalf of the British Chiropractic Association.