While not life-threatening directly, problems with your back or your neck can be debilitating, and have a severe impact on your quality of life.
It’s not possible to prevent problems arising from accidents or even problems simply caused by a sudden movement or twist. But if we look at what we can do in terms of prevention, it’s a fact that many problems with the back and neck are due to poor posture, where the spine settles into an un-natural shape, and puts unwanted pressure on muscles and nerves.
If you already have minor problems, then you will (hopefully) have already met with a physiotherapist, and been given exercises to perform daily, to correct or at least ease the problems.
But how to avoid these problems?
In “Treat Your Own Back” and “Treat Your Own Neck”, Robin McKenzie explains the way your spine works, and how problems can occur. He advises a set of daily exercises, and also some lifestyle changes.
For example: if you start to experience neck problems: switch to using a feather pillow. That way you can redistribute the filling so as to get support for your neck while sleeping. If traveling, you can take a small travel feather pillow, but if all else fails, a rolled-up towel can do a reasonable job too.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has these recommendations (abbreviated) for keeping your back healthy:
• Always stretch before exercise or other strenuous physical activity.
• Don’t slouch when standing or sitting.
• At home or work, make sure work surfaces are at a comfortable height.
• Sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper position and height for the task. A pillow or rolled-up towel placed behind the small of the back can provide some lumbar support.
• Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
• Sleeping on one’s side with the knees drawn up in a fetal position can help open up the joints in the spine and relieve pressure by reducing the curvature of the spine. Always sleep on a firm surface.
• Don’t try to lift objects that are too heavy. Do not twist when lifting.
• Maintain proper nutrition and diet to reduce and prevent excessive weight gain.
• Quit smoking.
The UK National Health Service (NHS) has these recommendations to avoid back pain:
• do regular back exercises and stretches
• stay active – doing regular exercise can help keep your back strong
• avoid sitting for long periods
• take care when lifting
• check your posture when sitting, using computers or tablets and watching television
• ensure the mattress on your bed supports you properly
• lose weight through diet and regular exercise if you’re overweight
It also has a set of recommended exercises to ease and prevent back pain.