Back advice guide
Jumping out of bed quickly, carrying heavy shopping bags or lifting fallen objects - just a few examples of the everyday actions that our backs have to endure hundreds of times over.
When everything is working as it should, we don't give our backs a second thought. It is only when problems occur that many people start to care about keeping their spines healthy. A few simple preventative tips can help to avoid permanent pain or damage and strengthen the back.
Even if back problems cannot be avoided in every case, pain can generally be prevented. The rule of thumb is as simple as it is effective: movement, movement and more movement.
Nothing strengthens the back more than a healthy and active lifestyle. Low-impact sports are better than high-impact sports, however. These include swimming, cycling and walking. Classical exercises from the back training classes can also encourage a strong posture, thereby relieving strain on tendons and discs. Relaxation training in the form of autogenic training, massages or progressive muscle relaxation can serve as a harmonious opposite.
As well as a lack of movement, being overweight can also contribute to back problems, and this issue in particular should not be under-estimated as a cause of back pain. Consequently, everyone should maintain a healthy and balanced diet in addition to exercise. It won’t just be your back that thanks you!
Back pain in the workplace
The working day often offers very little variety in terms of exercise and movement. To maintain a back-friendly posture at the desk, here are a few pointers:
A good office chair should support the lumbar spine and encourage a pleasant seating position. The upper section of the spine should be as straight as possible. The legs should be spread at hip width and under no circumstances should they be crossed.
The ideal distance of the monitor for the eyes is between 60 and 90 centimetres. The gaze should be straight at the screen without having to turn the head. Where the telephone is used frequently, do not jam the handset between the shoulder and the head as this posture can quickly lead to muscle tension and spasm.
As a rule of thumb, stay active and constantly stretch and extend the muscles to relax them. Stand up from time to time too.
Exercises for the workplace
Sit upright, place the left hand on the right shoulder and pull your shoulder forwards towards the middle of the body. Hold this position for around 15 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Stand up and stand straight. Raise your arms in the air and alternately reach for the ceiling.
While seated, bend your upper body forwards and spread your legs slightly. Let your arms hang down at shoulder width. Bend forwards as far as you can; you should feel the muscles of your back relax.
Back pain during pregnancy
Pregnancy involves many parts of the woman's body. Physical changes, particularly in the second and third trimesters, can lead to muscle tension and pain, particularly in the back. The increase in weight shifts the body's centre of gravity, irritating muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Early training can help to compensate the new arrangements more effectively during pregnancy. Women who are not used to such training should merely carry out gentle exercises to relax. For sportier women, you can continue your preferred sport provided you do not over-exert yourself. Gentle forms of sport are particularly recommended.
Swimming, for example, strengthens the back, while the warm water relaxes the muscles and supports the body's weight. Yoga is another alternative, since it incorporates relaxing as well as strengthening elements.
Women with back pain should have the condition of their spines checked before they fall pregnant. MRI scans can be used to detect changes such as congenital or acquired changes, disc prolapses or spondylolisthesis, which may present a possible risk for pregnancy and the birthing process.
Exercises for pregnant women
Get on all fours and stretch your back upwards, like a cat. Then move your bottom towards your feet. Finally, stretch your whole body forwards.
A simple exercise can offer quick relaxation. Lie on your back and place your legs at a 90-degree angle on a chair. Breathe deeply down to the base of your tummy and pelvis, and your whole back will make contact with the floor.
Stand up straight, with your feet on the floor at shoulder width. Reach with your hand over your head towards your shoulders and carefully stretch.
Back pain in children
Small children in particular rarely experience back pain. The reason for this is simple - activity. Running, climbing and racing around are part of everyday life for children, teaching them stamina, balance and helping their muscles to develop.
When school begins, their exercise patterns change. Many children however do not spend just their entire mornings sitting down, but also spend the afternoon doing nothing but watching TV or playing on the computer. Almost a third of all school children experience back pain at some time or another. In the majority of cases, the reason is muscular imbalance. Instances of disc degeneration are on the increase, and in rare cases discs can even prolapse.
Playing outdoors in the fresh air will encourage exercise and strengthen the muscles. Sport and classic children's games also encourage the child to be active and prevent damage to their posture. Conservative treatment is often the answer. Painkillers, such as Paracetamol, are rarely used. The use of minimally-invasive or microsurgical procedures is only considered in extreme exceptional cases.
Exercises for children
Short quick and long high jumps on the trampoline offer a variety of ways to exercise. Children like to try different exercises and at the same time condition their bodies. Miniature or large trampolines not only strengthen the muscles, but also improve children’s balance.
Skipping is good for developing muscles and coordination. Different types of skipping, with legs closed or open, for example, provide variety. If a longer rope is used, several children can skip together, increasing motivation.
A test of strength or pulling in the same direction with others will challenge the whole body. As well as ropes, even towels can be used for a duel. Essentially, varied forms of play encourage every child to exercise and thereby prevent back problems and postural damage.