Nearly 80 per cent of Brits have experienced lower back pain and it’s said to be the second most common reason for going to see your GP.
Many experts blame our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, bad posture and uncomfortable shoes for the rise of back pain. Whatever the cause, it can be hard to work out the best course of action when the pain flares up.
But someone who does know what to do is London-based osteopath Nadia Alibhai. Over the course of the past 15 years, she’s helped thousands of people, including members of the Downton Abbey cast.
Here are her crucial Do’s and Don’ts for managing the discomfort…
DO Ice the area (for around 15-20 mins) if you’ve had pain for six weeks or less, or if there is shooting pain or swelling. This can help decrease any inflammation.
DON’T Sit on soft chairs or bean bags that lack support for your back as they can strain the area, making the pain worse.
DO Eat foods such as pineapple, cherries, avocado, parsley, celery, broccoli, leafy greens and blueberries
– which are all known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
DON’T Eat sugary foods, dairy or processed white flour as they can cause inflammation.
DO Sleep on your side with a cushion between your legs. Or if sleeping on your back, roll up a towel and put it under your knees to prevent straining.
DON’T Sleep on your tummy as it can strain your lower back and make it more painful.
DO Keep hydrated. The discs between your vertebrae are, among other things, filled with water and when you are dehydrated it can cause your back pain to flare up because of reduced ‘spongy-ness’.
DON’T Do high-impact sport such as playing squash or running as it may make the symptoms worse due to any force or jarring of joints causing surrounding structures to flare up.
DON’T Lift anything heavy – it can put pressure on the joints and surrounding muscles, which can make pain worse. If you do need to pick up something, make sure you bend from the knees.
DO Keep moving. The body is made to be dynamic, so slow gentle movements – like walking or stretching – can help with keeping the muscles flexible and the joints mobile.
DON’T Stay in bed or seated for extended periods. Sitting down for too long can cause shortening of the hip flexors and rounding of the shoulders. If you have a desk job, try to get up and walk around as often as you can.
DO Heat the area (for around 20 mins) if there are tight/spasmed muscles as this can help increase the blood flow to the area and relax the muscles.
DO Wear shoes like trainers that will support your feet and ankles and keep the body more stable when walking. This will also lead to less impact through the joints.
DON’T Wear stilettos or very high heels. But the opposite extreme – completely flat shoes with no arch support – can be just as bad. They can lead to ankles and knees working harder due to the lack of support which can have a knock-on effect on the hips and back, causing pain and fatigue.
DO Wear a rucksack to spread the load and make sure you remove unnecessary items that are adding weight to your bag.
DON’T Wear a bag on one shoulder as it can tilt your body to one side causing strain and pressure on your back.
Click here for osteopath Nadia Alibhai’s website.