This week (6-12 October) is BackCare Awareness Week. Every year the campaign runs to help put the spotlight on the prevention of back and neck pain.
As a chiropractor of almost 25 years, I have seen thousands of people experiencing back or neck pain for many different reasons, but more and more recently, I am seeing people in pain due to the lifestyle they lead. Perhaps surprisingly, I'm not talking about people who lift weights for a living or those into intense exercise, but instead it's people who are, sometimes without realising it, simply spending more and more time being still.
My experience is supported by research conducted by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA). When asked to think about what it was that causes them back pain, 43% of respondents pinned sleeping as their most common pain trigger and 44% said sitting was also a leading cause.
Modern lifestyle means that we spend more and more of our time being sedentary. Now the BCA is urging people to think about what they put their backs through during an average day.
The BCA's research found that 82% of people spend up to six hours a day sitting in front of a computer screen and almost one in five (19%) spend more than four hours a day watching TV. Such inactive lifestyles could be causing unnecessary pain and in fact just building some small movements into your everyday life can really make a difference.
Firstly, remember to always sit up straight. Many of us spend hours slaving over a desk at work so it's important to try and maintain a healthy posture in this time. I always advise my patients to keep their arms close to the body and supported if possible, making sure that the top of the screen is level with the eyebrows and the seat base is titled slightly forward, allowing for the knees to be lower than the hips and the feet to be flat on the floor. Sit into the back of the chair and use as much of the chair as possible for support.
Secondly, it's important to keep moving. If you are sitting in the same position all day try to take regular breaks every 30 minutes. It's good to stretch your arms, shrug your shoulders and move your fingers around - this helps to keep the muscles more relaxed. Try to limit the time you spend leaning over your mobile devices or with your laptop on your knees (especially after a day spent in front of a screen), to help improve your posture and relieve neck strain.
Finally, remember that bedtime is just as important for your back as your daytime activities. I recommend that people lie on their back or sides rather than lying on their front with the neck twisted to one side.