Feeling achey? You may be unsurprised to learn that more young people than ever are experiencing back pain right now, thanks to home-working setups, slouching and a serious lack of movement during the various UK lockdowns.
According to health campaign Mind Your Back, 64 per cent of 18 to 29-year-olds now have back problems thanks to our longer working hours and hybrid working conditions.
So if you’re slumping over your laptop everyday and noticing a niggle, you’re not alone – but it’s best to sort it now before it develops into anything even more painful.
GP Dr Jill Jenkins tells us: “For the six in ten Brits who have been mostly or always working from home during the pandemic and are now hybrid working, almost half don’t have constant access to a table and supportive chair during their working day. And unfortunately, 20 per cent have to work while sitting on a sofa or bed. This plays absolute havoc with posture and spine health.” Uh oh.
There are a few simple things we can do to keep on top of our back health, however – and that includes moving more, keeping an eye on our posture and adjusting our working set up…
Take a walk
We’re not designed to sit for long periods of time, which means we can easily end up with back or hip problems.
If you’re a desk worker, try to get up for a short walk every hour or so, even if it’s only for a moment. Extra points if you make time to go for a longer stroll on your lunch break.
Look at your computer set up
It’s important that your screen is set to your eye level, so that you’re not hunching over your laptop or computer. Try stacking your laptop onto a pile of books or a stand – a good rule of thumb is that your eyes naturally fall to the top third of your computer when you’re looking straight ahead.
Try a standing desk
If sitting for prolonged periods of time is causing you a lot of pain, you might want to try a standing desk – which can be set up ergonomically so your screen, keyboard and mouse are all at the right height for you.
But while standing is better than sitting, it can cause other postural problems, like putting your weight onto one leg and causing imbalance in the spine. Try and focus on keeping both feet firmly on the floor, and take those regular walks, too.
Do some daily stretches
Gentle stretching can really help to ease the pressure and tightness in the muscles – try doing some simple cat cows, side bends and twists every day. You might feel stiff at first, but it shouldn’t be painful.
Treat flare-ups with hot and cold compresses
If that niggle becomes more than just that, it may be time to rest and apply some heat to the area to soothe the pain. A good trick is to alternate between hot and cold compresses – the heat will ease muscle spasms, while cold therapies are said to be beneficial for nerve pain.
One of the best ways to ease a sore back is to strengthen the muscles around it for support – so say hello to your new best friend, Mr Pilates.
Controlled, body weight exercises that work the core, glutes and back muscles are the best place to start – even better, you could consult with a physio or clinical pilates instructor to give you some focused routines.
Remember, nothing should feel painful – so start small. If you’re attending an exercise class, always tell your instructor about your back pain, so they can adapt any movements that might aggravate it.
Cardiovascular exercise is also great for back pain, as it gets the body moving and increases blood flow to the muscles. Low impact activities such as cycling or brisk walking are best.
Seek help if you need it
If your back pain is causing you significant discomfort, such as trouble sleeping or getting on with daily activities, it might be time to let your GP know, or get in touch with a physio.
Back pain might be very common, but it can be very debilitating, too – and it doesn’t have to be that way.