How to... avoid back pain in the home
Back pain is one of the most common complaints reported to British GPs - up to 40% of adults have suffered from it at some point in their lives.
One in ten of those who suffer from back pain wind up in hospital, and if left untreated permanent damage can occur. See this NHS introduction to back pain for more on the topic.
Here we present some tips to help prevent back pain in the home:
1 Lift light loads and carry correctly Lifting and bending the wrong way are the most common causes of accidents resulting in back pain. Think how many times a day you bend down to pick something up: washing, your child or pet, food from the oven etc. The correct way to do this is to:
- Bend your knees so that you have a solid foundation for your spine
- Keep yourself vertical. Avoid bending from the back or twisting
- Get close to what you are lifting. It decreases the pressure on your spine
When carrying loads, try to disperse the weight across your body. For example, spread your shopping evenly across both arms. Don’t lift loads which are too heavy for you. See this back.com article on lifting techniques for more detailed advice.
2 Stand straight — but not for too long We do most of our household chores standing up. You should stand comfortably with your back straight, but don’t do this for a prolonged period of time because you will start to slouch and hunch.
When doing kitchen tasks such as peeling vegetables, try sitting at the table with a straight back instead of craning over the worktop.
3 An ergonomic kitchen Or go one better and have a completely new ergonomic kitchen fitted.
A well designed kitchen offers a variety of ergonomic features including:
- varying worktop heights, tailored to your body size to ensure comfort when preparing food and washing up
- short distances between appliances, meaning you don’t have to carry things for too long
- electrical appliances built in at a higher level, making things easier on your back
- comfortable to use storage space including drawers
- pull-outs in base units that can be pulled out fully and wall units with folding, lifting and flap doors
See ALNO’s ergonomic kitchen — shown right with with a hob positioned slightly lower than the worktop to ease cooking and food preparation — for more pointers.
4 Get wise: exercise! The best thing you can do to keep your back, and the rest of your body healthy, is to exercise. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes each day. Gentle exercise can build strong back muscles to support your spine and maintain flexibility.
Remember to keep things at your own pace and stop immediately if you feel any discomfort.
5 A good night, brings a good day Sleep is essential; it allows the body to relax and rejuvenate. The best positions for sleep are sideways and on your back.
A good firm mattress also helps. It is recommended that you check your mattress every five to seven years for comfort and support. Research by the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine has shown that the quality of sleep is affected by the age of the sleeping equipment.
In light of the fact that we spend around a third of our lives sleeping the benefits of a good sleeping system become clear.
6 Use good furniturePoor seating and awkward posture are key causes of back pain. Good posture means sitting in a balanced and neutral position to avoid straining your spine. You should choose a chair with a back high enough to support your lower back as well as your shoulders.
7 Garden sensibly It's not really our specialty, but Is Gardening A Pain? is a nice post on how to avoid back pain in the garden.