Getting back on track

Getting back on track
Taking good care of your back should be a health priority, writes Colm Fitzpatrick

Most of us are taught from a young age to stand up straight and keep our shoulders back, but very often this advice falls on deaf ears. It can be more comfortable to eat dinner at the dining table or watch television in a slouched position, and the longer this behaviour continues, the more likely that it will affect your permanent posture. This problem is a worrying one, and has been exacerbated in the last decade or so given the proliferation of mobile phones. Instead of sitting up straight at home or on a bus, these addictive devices cause our backs and shoulders to slump over which over time causes immense strain. Millions of people suffer from backpain, the cause of which can often be boiled down to poor posture. This has serious effects on your day-to-day living, making simple tasks extremely laborious and difficult.

While it can feel like there’s no option out, backpain can be treated and while it may take time to notice significant change, it’s certainly worth it. For those who have a bad posture or are suffering from unexplained back pain, take a look at these helpful tips to get you back on track.

  1. Talk to a doctor or physiotherapist

Before engaging in rigorous training, it’s vital that you speak to a medical professional who can advise you on what exercises are appropriate to perform. It might be the case that you have a serious back problem like scoliosis. This condition affects about 4 out of every 1,000 children and occurs when the spine curves or twists to the side, causing strain on the muscles of the back. By speaking to a back specialist, you’ll have a much better idea of the specific problems you’re facing, rather than mere vague speculation. With a prognosis, they can advise you on what do next and may even give you an exercise regime.

  1. Don’t slouch on the couch

A common problem when sitting down – either at home, in a vehicle or at work – is slouching. This posture is common among children and those who have sedentary jobs. While it can feel more comfortable to slouch, over time it can put immense strain on the back, shoulders and legs. Kicking this habit can be tough as your body has acustomised to the position, but the longer this continues, the worse the physiological pain will become. To tackle this issue, make a concerted effort to sit up straight, sitting as far back as possible against the chair with you feet flat on the ground.

3. Techno no-no

While the younger generation is especially susceptible to hunching over to look at their phones or gaming devices, older people can also fall into this trap. This is one of the most common posture problems and leads to a rounded back which is not only uncomfortable but also unflattering! Constantly glaring at your mobile phones can result in a condition called ‘text neck’ where the neck is held in an abnormal bent position. To remedy this issue try poking your chin out when on a phone or at a computer and make sure to bring your shoulder blades in towards your spine.

  1. Jump in feet first

Your back-pain issues may arise from much lower in your body than you suspected: your shoes. Depending on how you walk and if you wear down either the outside or inside of your shoe faster, you could be creating serious misalignment problems. This is known as supination and occurs when weight is placed on a specific side of the foot. How you walk affects your knees, hips and lower back meaning it’s important that you do it properly. This might require that you be more conscientious of how you walk or purchasing special footwear which reduces this effect.

  1. A shoulder solution

If you have bad posture, you’ll probably have rounded shoulders. This is caused by looking down and forward for long periods of time throughout the day, or by not having enough upper back strength. Even gym-goers can develop this condition if they focus too heavily on chest exercises and ignore back training. To find out whether you have rounded shoulders, stand up and allow you arms to fall naturally. If your knuckles are facing forward, then it’s likely you suffer from this common issue. Some suggest a corrective back brace to solve rounded shoulders but daily exercises that strengthen your back, chest and core should help.

  1. Avoid mattress stress

Sleeping position can make an incredible difference for back-pain sufferers. We spend around eight hours each night sleeping, so it’s important that you find a mattress that is comfortable. Sleeping on your side or back is more helpful for back-pain so avoid lying on your stomach. It is also recommended that you sleep with a pillow, and there are specially designed ones to help with postural problems. Instead of lying on a pillow, others prefer to place a pillow underneath their knees and a small, rolled up towel on their neck for more support. Research different sleeping positions and see what works best for you.

  1. Workout to work it out

It’s generally advised that exercising can help with postural problems and back pain so look online or speak to an expert on what movements will work best with you. Exercises which target the back and core are ideal and there are plenty to try out. They range from simple exercises like the ‘Chin Tuck’ where you place two fingers on your chin, tuck your chin and move your head back, to more complex movements. When done correctly, full body workouts will improve your posture making you feel stronger and confident.

  1. Good posture starts early

As the old saying goes, it’s better to prevent than cure. In this vein, make sure your kids and sitting up straight with good posture in the house and while eating. In an environment where the family can hold one another accountable for how they sit and be rewarded for doing it properly, children are more likely to adopt the correct posture. Of course, parents should lead by example and are therefore not immune to this accountability. With school now in full swing, it’s also vital that your kids wear their backpacks correctly. They should keep both straps on their back at all times, and make sure they’re adjusted high on the shoulders.

A good back posture will not only help in ridding yourself of aches and strains, but also improve the quality of your life drastically.”

Although back-pain and bad posture are common ailments, this doesn’t mean you are destined to suffer from them. They are preventable and with persistence, treatable, from the comfort of your own home. A good back posture will not only help in ridding yourself of aches and strains, but also improve the quality of your life drastically. Likewise, backpain when ignored can cause unbearable agony, and also lead to mental health problems like depression. By addressing the symptoms now rather than later, you will be making your first step towards holistic comfort.

If you recognise yourself as a possible sufferer, use this as your motivation to consult a medical expert and make a positive change to your back health and well-being.