- Pace yourself - do a job for 30 minutes, then do a different one, then go back to the first one for a bit. This will avoid overuse of one particular set of joints and muscles (and stop you getting bored!).
- Lawn-mowing - the grass is often wet and heavy at this time of year which can strain the back as you manoeuvre a heavy lawn-mower. Wait for a dry windy day as the grass will be drier, and therefore lighter, and raise the level of the blades. This will make it easier to cut - and the grass will thank you for it too (it's better to leave it a little longer over the winter months). Better still - leave the box off the back and let the mowings 'mulch' in.
- Raking - the twisting, pulling movement that we do to rake up leaves can really twist and jar the low back and hips. Try to do shorter strokes and move your feet to avoid twisting at the waist. Easier still, make a cup of tea and let the wind do the work - the leaves will blow across the lawn and get trapped by the stems in the flower bed where they'll act as a good mulch over the winter.
- Pathways - paving slabs and decking can be lethal in the winter months. I was at my parents' house the other weekend and 'jet-washed' the path - much to the dismay of my Dad who liked the 'mossy' look. However, as I reminded them both with Mum's slightly fragile bones and Dad's artificial hips it was an accident waiting to happen - and I can't be spending the autumn driving back and forth to Oxfordshire (added to which I nearly broke my neck slipping on the stones last time I was galloping out to the car). So, a happy afternoon with the pressure washer and my wellies and the path looks much better (even Dad agrees, reluctantly) and is far less slippy. Have a bag of cheap dishwasher salt handy to sprinkle down if it gets icy - or even a bucket of salty sand from the beach!
- Digging - don't attempt to do the winter digging all in one go. Do a little bit each day, and don't bother breaking up the clods - the worms and the frost will do the work for you!
- Wheelbarrows - it's really tempting to fill the barrow to the brim, whether it be with lawn-mowings, weeds or logs for the log-burner. However, this can make it unstable and heavy which might cause you to strain your back and shoulders. It's far better to half-fill it twice as often, and make sure you bend your knees when you lift anything heavy. The same goes for the log basket or coal bucket - half fill it twice as often.
- Get help - They say that many hands make light work, so if you're going to be doing a slightly difficult job, get someone to give you a hand. Whilst at my parents I suggested that it might make more sense for me to go up the ladder and cut back the climber from the side of the house, rather than Mum doing it - another possible broken hip averted...
With the evenings drawing in and the mornings feeling damp and dewy, there's definitely a sense of autumn in the air. Thankfully we're still getting a few warm sunny days and there are plenty of jobs that need doing, tidying up after the fantastic summer we've had and preparing for the winter ahead. Whether it be mowing the lawn one last time, digging up the last of the potatoes, or reaching up to get that enormous blackberry at the top of the bush just don't overdo it! Otherwise, you'll be calling the clinic, and much as I love to see you, there are a few things that you can be doing to stay away!...
There was a great article published in today's Mirror - I've re-posted it on my blog for sake of ease (technically, since the British Chiropractic Association contributed substantially, we sort of wrote it anyway, but thanks to the Mirror!). Those of you who want to read the original version you can follow the link. Just click here!
It’s no wonder back problems are the biggest cause of time off work in the UK, and the second most common reason for going to the GP.
A shocking survey carried out by the British Chiropractic Association has found two in three of us have suffered serious neck or back pain by the time we hit 35. Add in people over 35 and the figures reach eight in 10.
It’s no wonder back problems are the biggest cause of time off work in the UK, and the second most common reason for going to the GP.
But the latest research also shows surprisingly few cases of back pain are the result of a serious accident or injury – the vast majority are caused simply by the cumulative effects of lifestyle that we tend to ignore.
For example, the Prime Minister David Cameron’s recurrent back pain is likely to have been triggered, at least in part, by all those hours at a desk or travelling in cars – and stress when he’s not chillaxing on holiday.
“Simple daily habits, such as hunching to read your smart phone, slouching in front of your computer – even having a weekend lie-in – can, over time, strain your spine and the surrounding muscles, leaving you vulnerable to serious back injury,” agrees BCA chiropractor Tim Hutchful.
“People will come to me in pain and say, ‘I just bent down to pick something up and my back went’, but actually it’s their behaviour in the months or years before which has led to the weakness – the one-off event is just the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.”
So to stop back pain now – and prevent future agony – try targeting the following unexpected culprits…
1 Sitting still - Forget heavy lifting – sitting hunched over a computer all day is one of the worst things you can do for your back.
“Research has found that people who do desk jobs suffer more back pain than those working in manual jobs where lots of lifting is involved,” says Tim Hutchful.
“Using your joints and spine strengthens them, reducing risk of injury. But inactivity weakens them, which makes you more prone to problems.”
? Fix it: Get up and walk around for two minutes, at least once an hour, and improve your posture while you’re sitting down. Avoid bending forward and aim for a “neutral spine position”, in which everything is in line, with no strain spots.
Your shoulders should be relaxed, feet flat on the floor, and eyes in line with the middle of your screen. Click on to: bit.ly/bcapostureinf for more advice.
2 High heels and ballet pumps - Yes, tottering in high heels for long periods can make your back sore, but too much time in the wrong flats can do just as much damage.
“Heels cause problems because they force your foot forward, altering the angle of your body so your weight isn’t evenly distributed over the spine, which can trigger pain from your knees all the way up to your back,” explains sports physiotherapist Chris Hirons from N10 Injury & Sports Therapy Clinic.
“But popular styles of shoe – such as ballet pumps and flip-flops – aren’t a great deal better as they allow your foot to slide around.
“Again, the lack of stability that this causes puts pressure on your spine,” accordingly to Hirons.
? Fix it: “Ensure your shoe holds your foot firmly in place to keep you stable and protect your back,” says Hirons.
“And alternate between high heels, mids and flats. By wearing different shoes every day, you lessen your chance of experiencing long-term problems caused by using only one type of shoe.”
3 Sneezing - This seemingly innocuous, activity is apparently a very common cause of back pain – thanks to its sheer force.
A sneeze’s speed of release can be up to 100 miles per hour, and because it’s not considered polite to sneeze over someone, our first instinct is to quickly cover our faces and turn away.
But according to Janet Wakley, author or The Smart Guide to Back Care (Hammersmith Health Books, £14.99), this instinctive turn is one of the worst things we can do for our backs.
“Spontaneously twisting to the side, combined with the force used by the chest muscles to sneeze, can wrench the back muscles in just a second,” she warns.
? Fix it: “If possible, turn your whole body when you ‘re about to sneeze, so that your back remains straight,” recommends Wakley.
4 Your favourite bra - The latest figures suggest around 80% of us wear a bra that doesn’t fit, which can cause several muscular problems.
A bra that offers no support can lead to hunching and sore neck and back muscles, while one that gives proper support can help to minimise that forward hunch and relieve pain.
? Fix it: Get measured and fitted by a trained bra fitter – stores such as Debenhams and M&S both offer this service for free.
Go for styles with wider shoulder straps or a racer-style back, which offer better support and encourage you to pull your shoulders back.
5 Your pot belly - “Even an extra couple of pounds around your middle makes your pelvis tilt forward and puts it out of alignment as your body works to rebalance itself,” explains Chris Hirons.
“This means that your spine isn’t getting enough support from your abdominal muscles, which can cause excessive strain on your lower back.”
? Fix it: “Don’t do sit-ups – they won’t flatten your tummy if there’s fat on top,” advises Hirons.
“Fat-burning cardiovascular exercises, such as running or swimming, for 45 minutes, three times a week, are more effective at shifting the bulge.”
6 Stress - Just like the rest of you, your back muscles will tense up when you start to feel you are under pressure.
Muscles are designed to contract and relax but when you’re stressed, they may contract so much that they can eventually start to spasm, which in turn will trigger pain.
Stress also causes your levels of the hormone cortisol to soar, which increases inflammation in the body, making the problem worse.
? Fix it: Forget laying in bed as the latest research shows that gentle exercise, such as walking or yoga, is much more effective at relieving back pain.
It also has the added benefit of being proven to reduce stress levels.
7 Your smart phone - “The head-down position that you use to look at phones, iPads and laptops strains the muscles in the neck and the pain can extend all the way down your spine to your lower back,” explains chiropractor Tim Hutchful.
“This is especially bad for you if you are using them for hours on end because your body will eventually start to adopt this hunched position.”
? Fix it: Make sure you take frequent screen breaks.
Try to look straight ahead rather than down at your screen.
You might look for a stand to help you hold your laptop or tablet at a more back-friendly height and angle, such as the Trust ComfortLine Portable Ergonomic Laptop Stand (£16.90 from Amazon).
8 Your lie-in at the weekend - “Many people find a sore back is the downside of those extra hours spent snoozing in bed on a Sunday morning,” says Tim Hutchful.
“This is because your body is resting in the same position for too long, which can trigger or exacerbate existing aches and strains in both your joints and muscles”
? Fix it: “To stop this stiffness developing, I often advise patients to switch their Sunday morning lie-in for an afternoon siesta at the weekends instead,” says Hutchful.
I lost weight and Zumba-d the pain away Christina Taylor, 28, is a dance instructor from South West London an mum to Kyran, nine, and Josiah, who’s three...
"I developed severe back pain while I was pregnant with my second child, Josiah, and it just got worse after he was born. My doctor diagnosed a slipped disc and scheduled me for back surgery to remove it, which meant waiting on a long list.
Meanwhile, the pain was constant and some days I was taking 12 strong prescription painkillers just to function. The discomfort often left me in tears and sometimes just walking and looking after the kids was impossible.
I often had to resort to crutches to get around. I felt miserable and old before my time. I knew carrying too much weight wasn’t helping my back problems, but it hurt too much to go to the gym.
When a friend suggested Zumba, South American-inspired dance classes, I decided to give it a go – especially as I’d read that doctors now recommend exercise to ease back pain.
I started off slowly with one hour-long class a week but soon found the more classes I did, the more weight I lost, the easier movement became and the less pain I felt in my back.
I call Zumba exercise in disguise, because it has a party atmosphere with everyone just dancing away to the music.
After two months I was going to the classes three times a week and combining them with a tummy-toning class to help strengthen my ‘core’ back and stomach muscles and give my spine more support.
I couldn’t believe the benefits. After just four months I’d lost over three stone and was pain free for the first time in around three years and could stop taking the painkillers.
Better still, I felt well enough to cancel my surgery appointment with the back specialist. I’ve kept up the classes and now teach Zumba myself – I feel like a different person!"
Gadget saved me from disc agony Pip Caliskan, 45, from Bushey Heath in Hertfordshire used to work as a nail technician until she injured her back by twisting around while using her laptop…
"At the time I just thought, ‘Oh that hurt’, but by the following morning I couldn’t even get out of bed – I was in such agony. The pain was constant and then I lost the feeling in one leg and foot.
The specialist said a disc was pressing on my sciatic nerve and that I needed discectomy surgery to chop a bit off the problem disc.
But the surgery didn’t work and nor did a repeat op. I then had my third session of major surgery – a double spinal fusion – to remove the damaged disc and insert six bolts, a metal cage and a metal disc.
Things did get better, but the pain was still severe and I needed a cocktail of strong prescription painkillers to get through every day.
I was wiling to try anything when I heard about the Alpha-Stim – a small micro-current device, which is attached to your body by patches and claims to block pain signals to the brain and to kick-start the body’s natural healing process.
The instant I used it, it had a profound effect on my pain. You can’t feel the current, just a slight buzz, but it really works. I’ve been using Alpha-Stim regularly for two years and have many pain-free days – something I never thought possible. I'm off almost all my painkillers and, despite the initial cost, I must have saved a fortune on my prescriptions.
I finally feel in control of the pain and have my life back. I was even able to wear heels to my daughter’s graduation this summer!"
So, a good summary of things that can cause back pain - and a few handy hints and tips to prevent it. They obviously forgot to add in that a trip to your friendly, local chiropractor can help determine the exact cause of your problem and provide you with appropriate treatment and preventative advice to help ease it! :)
The end of the school holidays and the start of term needn't be such a pain in the neck - or the back.
I walked with my niece to her school the other day and was amazed at the weight of her school bag - not to mention her hockey stick, PE kit, packed lunch - and all the other stuff that she needed for the day. It's not surprising then that back pain is on the increase in our youngsters, but a few simple tips can make the start of term a bit less painful...
• Bag it up - a rucksack really is the best option, as long as your child carries it over both shoulders, with the straps are adjusted so that the bag is held close to their back and heavier items are placed at the top of the rucksack. They'll probably hate you for it now, making them look like a nerdy swot, but they'll thank you for it later in life when they haven't got such a sore back!
• Keep it light - your child should avoid carrying any excess weight in their bag – check it every day to make sure they aren’t carrying any unnecessary items. Encourage the school to provide lockers so that they don't have to carry all their heavy books around all the time.
• Best foot forward - wearing good, soft-soled shoes that are supportive and have a good grip on the ground will make carrying a heavy bag much easier. Ensure shoes laces are tied up properly for support (again, much cooler to have them undone, socks around the ankles - but just remind them that it's much less cool to have a broken ankle!).
• Move around - staying still for a long time is bad for the spine. Limit your child to 40 minutes on their phone, laptop, tablet, and computer or in front of the TV then encourage them to get up and do something else for a while. Hint - Hide the remote control so they have to get up to change channel.
• Keep fit - Regular and frequent exercise is best - the fitter they are, the less likely they are to injure themselves. Drag them out at the weekends or make the most of this late summer sunshine and head out after school. Encourage them to take up a new sport or active hobby. Exercise is good for us grown-ups too - set a good example and get out there! Ditch the car and walk or cycle them to school - and then carry on to work.
These few simple tips can help to make things more comfortable and reduce the risk of back and neck pain. Ultimately, this'll hopefully make for a happier, healthier child (certainly less whingy!).
Your Chiropractor at Llangefni Chiropractic Clinic