Most people get back pain at some point in their lives. Sometimes one small awkward movement can leave you in severe pain – it’s so unfair!! However, you can do a lot to reduce the risk of hurting your back by making some small changes in your everyday activities.

If you do hurt your back, massage treatments can help.

General advice

  • Your spine: All spines have a hollow in the base of your neck and another in the lower back. Try to keep your spine in its natural shape whatever you do.
  • Lying in bed: Your bed should support your spine so that its natural curves are maintained when lying on your back – your matress should be not too hard and not too soft. You should be able to slide your hand (palm down) into the small of your back.
  • Sitting: When you sit on a chair, your feet should be on the ground (or on a foot-rest) with your hips slightly higher than your knees. Try not to sit for more than 20 minutes without getting up, having a stretch and moving around. Don’t sit up in bed to watch TV or read as this strains the back.
  • Lifting and carrying: Avoid lifting heavy objects on your own if you can. Before lifting anything off the floor, bend your knees (not your back), kneel on one knee with the other foot flat on the ground. Once you’ve lifted the object, keep your feet wide apart to help you feel stable and keep the load close to your body.
  • Resting: Rest regularly during periods of vigorous activity and only work within your tolerance levels.
  • Clothes and shoes: Loose-fitting clothes allow you to bend more easily. Wear shoes with cushioned soles, like trainers, and avoid high heels.
  • Keeping fit: Strengthening your back muscles and keeping fit is important. Walking is a good way to start keeping fit. If you want to do more, swimming is a very good exercise for your back, or you could try an exercise bike. Whatever you do, get some advice from a trainer to make sure you’re exercising in the right way.

Housework and gardening

  • Washing up: as you wash up try to not to stoop, and rest one foot on a ledge in front of you (e.g. a low cupboard shelf below the sink) for a few minutes and then the other foot. Alternatively sit on a high stool.
  • Ironing: adjust the height of the ironing board so that you don’t have to stoop over it.
  • Vacuuming: push your vacuum cleaner in front of you rather than pulling and pushing from side to side.
  • Bed-making: When making your bed, kneel on a cushion to tuck in the sheets. Fitted sheets and duvets may make bed-making easier.
  • Reaching high up: use a ladder rather than over stretching.
  • Gardening: Do some gentle stretching before and after. Bend from your knees or use a kneeler when weeding. Use long handled tools to prevent excessive bending. Switch tasks regularly and pace yourself to your own level of fitness. Ask for help with heavy digging, scarifying and hedge cutting.

Working at a desk and computer

  • Sitting: Make sure that you can adjust your chair so that your lower back is properly supported. Have your knees level with your hips
  • Arms: Ensure your elbows are no further forward than the line of your body when using the keyboard and mouse.
  • Breaks: Move away from your desk on a regular basis and try some simple stretching exercises; Try to take a short walk at lunchtimes

You might also be interested in Desk exercises for the office bound.

And you’ll find lots more useful information about looking after your back on the website BackCare – the charity for healtier backs.