This week is Back Care Awareness Week, an event to highlight the importance of looking after your back health – helping to support the vital structure that supports us every day. An estimated 80% of the population will suffer from lower back pain at some point, which also accounts for the single largest cause of disability in the UK.
This year, the importance of back care is been more important than ever, with millions of people having swapped offices for armchairs, and desks for their dining tables. Whereas offices are typically kitted out to ergonomically support your body, makeshift workspaces at home can take their toll on posture, putting strain on your joints and muscles which can cause aches to creep in. If this sounds like you, you are not alone. A study by BUPA showed that as many as two-thirds of British homeworkers are in pain as a result of their adapted workspaces.
Discomfort is your body’s way of getting your attention to prevent serious damage, so should not be ignored. Poor posture puts increased strain on muscles in your neck and back, as they are forced to work harder supporting the weight of your head. Efforts by the immune system to restore these tired muscles can cause inflammation, which over time could lead to arthritis of nearby joints.
Rather than relying on painkillers for back pain, now known to be ineffective and potentially harmful for long-term chronic pain, lifestyle changes and space adaptions are key to preserving your joint health, as well as your workplace wellbeing.
Start your day with a stretch
Try to incorporate a good daily stretch into your morning routine. Just a few minutes manipulating the joints you use the most such as your back, knees, hips and elbows, will warm them up for the day ahead and help protect against injury.
Are you sitting comfortably?
When spending long periods of the day sat at a desk, it’s important to check the height of your chair. Too low, and it will put pressure on your knees and hips as you bend to get in and out of it. However, if it is too high it will cause your back and neck to ache as you hunch over to write or type. Ideally, you should be able to sit on your chair with your legs firmly on the ground and elbows rested comfortably on the table at a 90-degree angle.
Make the space work for you
The human head isn’t designed to stare downwards for long hours at a time and these prolonged periods of neck flexion and poor posture can lead to back pain and stiffness. Ensure that your computer screen is at eye level while sitting up with your back straight. If working from a laptop you can improvise by propping it up on a stack of books, while investing in a remote keyboard to prevent hunching over.
Supplement your diet
Consider taking a joint pain supplement to protect and restore affected joints. A supplement that has shown a lot of promise in recent years is GOPO. It’s the only rose-hip derived supplement to be supported by numerous published studies and is proven to effectively reduce joint pain. Recent research into active, healthy adults also found that 12 weeks of GOPO supplementation led to improved mobility, while potentially helping to reduce the degeneration of cartilage.
Don’t be static
Remember to take time throughout the day to move around and keep your joints feeling limber and mobile. Whether it be a short walk during lunch, or a lap of the garden while your tea brews – even short periods of activity helps to encourage blood flow, decrease stiff muscles and relieve tired joints, all whilst keeping you mentally fresh and focussed.
Just like the rest of you, your back muscles tense up when you start to feel you are under pressure. That uncomfortable twinge can lead to us feeling even more fraught – and a vicious cycle forms. Stress also causes your levels of the hormone cortisol to soar, which increases inflammation in the body. If you’re beginning to feel stressed, consider clearing your mind with a short walk or some fresh air.
Consultant rheumatologist Dr Rod Hughes suggests: ‘If you do experience lower back pain, there are effective drug-free alternatives. There is a large body of evidence supporting the use of GOPO, a compound derived from rose-hip, in musculoskeletal conditions, with research indicating that it can effectively relieve acute exacerbations of chronic back pain. The natural anti-inflammatory properties of GOPO make it a viable replacement to paracetamol in cases of non-specific lower back pain, without the risk of harmful side effects.’
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