Have you ever had back pain? I have and it was one of the most debilitating conditions I have ever had having sprained ligaments in my lower back so badly that it took over 2 years for me to become completely pain free. I have been amazed at the number of people I know who in the last 6 months have suffered in some way with back pain either recently, in the past or have it as an ongoing issue. With an ever increasing sedentary lifestyle, chronic pain is becoming more common. Around 5.6 million working days in the UK are lost each year due to back pain, second only to stress.

Sometimes we don’t know how we have come to be in pain and so it can be difficult to prevent completely but there are ways to reduce the risk of developing back pain. Ensure you don’t put your back under unnecessary strain; bend the knees when lifting a heavy load, use proper technique when lifting weights at the gym and if you don’t know how to do this properly then ask a professional to show you.

Exercise is great for preventing back pain and helping it to heal. It’s what I put down to helping my back get better and staying pain free. By engaging in physical activity the back is kept healthy by increasing blood flow to the spinal discs allowing them to exchange fluids and receive nutrients to keep healthy. When injury occurs, fluid exchange also helps to reduce swelling in other soft tissues that occurs around injured discs.  A lack of exercise results in an increase in swelling and discs becoming malnourished and degenerated.

Exercising the back reduces stiffness by keeping the connective fibres of ligaments and tendons flexible. By keeping mobility free flowing it helps the fibres to not tear under stress and therefore preventing injury and pain. Exercise will also help muscles that support the back by stretching and strengthening.  Having strong supporting muscles of the spine will help prevent straining other soft tissues too like the ligaments and tendons and give sufficient support to the spine.

Ensuring that muscles such as the hamstrings are stretched frequently will also help relieve stress on the lower back.

If you do suffer with back pain it is important to keep as active as you can. Take advice from a healthcare professional as to what exercise is suitable for your particular condition and what should be avoided especially in the early days of an injury. Ease back into exercise and physical activity. Be careful not to overwork or strain muscles that may have become deconditioned after a period of inactivity.  Low impact exercise such as yoga, pilates and swimming can be a good start. Muscles will become strengthened and more flexible, and strained muscles that cause pain will start to repair.

Remember prevention is better than cure so stay active, stretch and strengthen the supporting muscles of the back and be aware of your posture when sitting, standing or lifting.