Are you participating in our 8-week back pain challenge? Here’s your task for week one: Keep moving! Set yourself a reminder to stand up every 30 minutes. Here’s why…
Back pain is an extremely common condition, which up to 90% of people will experience at some point in their lives. Regardless of the cause of your back pain, the number one tip to know for managing and possibly reducing back pain is to keep moving and to avoid sitting for long periods of time.
Common myths about back pain recovery
Experts agree that staying active, and having a plan for gradually restoring your usual daily activities, is vital to assisting with recovery. If you’ve experienced an injury that led to your back pain, you will probably initially need to rest and avoid activities that could further aggravate your injury, as advised by your healthcare professional.
However, contrary to what many believe, prolonged bed rest is not helpful for recovery, and in fact could increase your recovery period. Long periods of bed rest are associated with higher pain levels, longer leave periods from work, high levels of disability, and less effective recovery overall. In most back pain cases, unless your healthcare provider recommends a longer rest period, it’s best not to rest for more than one or two days.
Instead of engaging in prolonged bed rest for back pain, experts recommend that you minimise bed-rest periods for as long as possible and start on light activity such as short walks around the house or getting up regularly during the day. Back stretches and gentle movements could help with speeding up healing.
Many people who experience back pain choose to avoid exercise because they think it can aggravate their pain. However, experts suggest that exercise can actually be good for those with back pain. Regular exercise can keep you healthy, fit, and strong, and minimise pain and discomfort. It can boost your mood and your immune system, while reducing muscle tension. If you do have back pain and are worried about doing the right type of exercise, consult your doctor or physiotherapist for advice on how to increase your exercise levels in a safe way. Swimming, walking, and yoga could be suitable exercise options.
Changing up your work routine
One of the things you’ll probably be wondering about if you’re experiencing back pain is whether or not to stay at work. According to experts, back pain can be dealt with in a similar way to a sports injury. Athletes with injuries will usually avoid resting in bed; instead, they’ll opt to stay relatively active while reducing their training load.
For you, this might mean changing your work routine to avoid aggravating any injuries, and staying at work as much as possible. You could work with your healthcare professional and your employer to create a program of gradually returning to full duties over the course of weeks. Returning to work when you can could support better recovery.
Supporting recovery with movement
Set yourself a reminder to stand up every 30 minutes
Given there is expert advice that suggests minimising bed rest and starting with exercise as soon as possible, what’s the one thing you can do this week to help improve your back pain? Start by focusing on simply getting to your feet every 30 minutes to avoid being sedentary. Use a timer on your phone or your watch to remind yourself to stand every half an hour, and start with light movements for a few minutes if you can.
You could support quicker recovery by avoiding sitting on low, soft couches that are hard to get up from. At the same time, make sure your desks and other work surfaces are of an appropriate height so you do not have to lean over.
Here are a few more tips to help you keep moving, courtesy of Axis Physiotherapy and Axis Rehabilitation at Work.
- Stand up for phone calls: If you have the space, pace around and stretch. Alternatively, walk to a colleague for a discussion.
- Give yourself a daily goal: It may be to get in 5,000 (non-running) steps. Download an app like Garmin Fit to track your activity level throughout the day.
- Take the stairs: Rather than take short elevator rides, make a habit of taking the stairs (a good motto is one flight up, two flights down).
- Setup: Arrange bins, printers etc away from your desk to encourage walking.
- Drink more water: Refilling your water glass will require you to make more trips to the kitchen and the bathroom.
- Exercise: Cut back on TV and internet surfing time at home. Watch the TV from your treadmill or do exercises during commercials.
- Active commuting: Walk or ride to work if you can, or at least for part of the journey.
- Standing reading: Having some three-door filing cabinets (approximately 1000 – 1100mm high) offers good standing height to read material or organise hard copy material.
- Encourage standing or walking meetings: Brain activation is far higher while standing and walking compared to sitting, so energising your work could even lead to better productivity.
- Use rest breaks wisely: Stand up to have lunch if you sit a lot.
Getting out of bed
In the early stages of an injury, it is important to move in bed and get out of bed safely by using the following simple movements:
- When you’re still in bed, move to the edge of your bed and roll to your side before moving your feet off the bed.
- Keep your back straight or slightly arched as you use your arms to push yourself into an upright, seated position.
- Again, use your arms to push to a standing position without bending.
Continuing to move is one of the most immediate strategies you can use to support your recovery from back pain. Commit to getting up at least once every 30 minutes if you’re staying seated for much of the day. Engage in light activity and maintain your usual exercise program if you can, and return to work as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. If you do have any doubts or if you have pre-existing conditions, always consult a qualified health professional for advice.
Disclaimer: The Herron blog is interested in general community wellbeing and information, and does not imply that Herron products should be used for serious ailments without the advice or recommendation from your healthcare practitioner.All information presented on the Herron website is meant for general knowledge and never meant as a diagnosis of prescription. Please always contact your doctor for health related matters.