We’re all looking for short cuts aren’t we? Life is so busy for many people nowadays and it seems almost natural to want the headline points. So, I’ve assembled them below – as usual they’re based on the latest scientific evidence – “Blah blah..” I hear you say. But it’s important to me that you know I don’t just make this stuff up. While I’m happy to include my own personal observations based on 23 years in practice, when I’m providing guidance such as in this article, it’s totally evidence-based, and is the advice you’d get if you paid to see me in person. ;-)
So, here goes. These points aren’t in any particular order, and if you can at least work on one or two, you’ll be making a difference to your back. Remember, being good in any particular area doesn’t guarantee your back will be perfect; however if you can improve in a number of these areas you’re certainly much more likely to get a better back!
Get Fitter and Be Active
Fitter people suffer less lower back pain and sciatica. Unfortunately some sports actually increase your risk of back pain due to injury. But if you’re someone who knows your fitness levels are poor you will almost certainly benefit from getting fitter (and not just your back!). Higher levels of activity (which usually lead to higher levels of fitness) are also associated with less back pain.
Posture is often linked to back pain. Improving your posture helps to decrease the load on the muscles, ligaments and discs in your lower back. Long periods of sitting are associated with an increased risk of back pain – especially if you do it with poor posture!
Smoking increases the risk of long term back pain. This is probably due to poorer circulation meaning any injured tissues take longer to heal, and perhaps also because smoking affects the neurotransmitters and hormones in your body which can mess with your pain levels.
Not easy to hear I know, but if you’re significantly overweight it does predispose you to lower back problems especially. Losing weight can be tough if you struggle to exercise because of pain, but it’s vital that you find a form of exercise that gets your heart pumping for 30 minutes at a time several times a week; sometimes just walking up and down in a swimming pool is the best place to start. It’s also important to look at the food connection of course; perhaps talk to your doctor about intermittent fasting? Both as a way of reducing weight and as an ongoing lifestyle.
Stress is really bad for pain of most types, including back pain and sciatica. I know you can’t just turn stress off like switching off the lights, but if you feel you’re quite an anxious or stressy person, have a read here.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for tissue repair and keeping your nervous system on an even keel. Sleep deprivation is associated with burn-out and over-production of adrenalin which will make your pain worse in the long-run.
There’s plenty of evidence that osteopathy is helpful with back pain and sciatica, so find yourself a clinician experienced in back problems, and stick to the one practitioner. Different diagnoses increase your stress levels and are likely to make your pain worse in the long-run!
As ever, if you’ve any questions related to this guide, please get in touch