Laugh you way to a better back
An article by Gillian Lonsdale
Findings of BOA report to support
Back Care Awareness Week took place in October and a survey conducted by the British Osteopathic Association has revealed that a whopping 81.6% of all Londoners suffer from some form of backache in their lifetimes, yet despite our underlying fears about its seriousness, we often choose to ignore it.
The causes of these largely debilitating pains are simpler than we may realise. Surprisingly, in 62% of cases, the trigger for the discomfort is either sitting down or driving, compared with 20% of respondents citing sport at the catalyst for the pain.
It also appears to be a common misconception that the rougher and heavier the activity, the more pain-prone our backs become. Whilst care should be taken to protect the back at all times, the results of the BOA’s investigation suggests that you are eight times more likely to put your back out when walking or running than playing rugby.
Despite the torture that back pain can bring, as a nation, we tend to suffer in silence, with over 59% of all questioned adults either taking a painkiller to ease the ache, or ignoring it or taking no action at all. Worryingly, only 9% of sufferers seek professional help and this, according to London-based Osteopath, Gillian Lonsdale, this can be disastrous ‘If nothing is done, stresses in problem areas could over time lead to osteoarthritis or a weakened area being more prone to future pain. This, in turn, will inevitably be more intense and require longer periods of rehabilitation.’
However, there are things that we can do in order to help prevent back ache:
· Laughing is one of the best preventative forms of action that we can take. Stress fostered by a modern working environment can lead to the clenching of muscles and tension in the back area. Laughing provides a fantastic antidote to this as it is a great relaxant that promotes a positive, pain free attitude.
· Drinking water also helps as it keeps muscles supple and the body well hydrated- 8- 10 glasses a day for the average adult is ideal.
· Bedtime habits are also something to consider. According to Gillian, mattresses should ideally be changed every 8-10 years, depending on their quality. ‘When you lie on your bed and roll into the middle, you know it’s all over and it's time to go shopping. Investing in a really good ‘pocket sprung’ or memory foam mattress along with a supportive pillow are the recipe for restful sleep.
Gillian warns that popping a pill or turning a blind eye is not only counter-productive, but means that the individual experiences unnecessary suffering: ‘If people try to soldier on, but the pain won’t go away. More often than not, with simple mechanical releases, an osteopath can relieve compression and pain with a few treatments.’
She also spoke of a patient whose life had been marred over a five year period due to chronic back pain which was significantly reduced within a matter of visits. ‘In many cases, one treatment can be enough but, if the pain is more serious, such as disc problems, then rehabilitation may take longer.’ Gillian adds that whatever the problem an osteopath will prescribe an appropriate course of treatment. ‘An osteopath will tailor exercises and stretches to each patient: what may work for one person might not for another. We can also help manage pain and not just provide a quick fix.’
But the main way our backs stay healthy is through movement. Muscles need oxygen to retain their flexibility. As Gillian points out, ‘These days, the pressure of work has become one of the main causes of back pain due to the increased hours that people stay sat at their desk. When muscles stay in the same position for a length of time, they become fatigued, start to lack oxygen and ultimately cause ischemic muscle pain.’
The best thing to do in the office environment is to take ‘movement breaks’ – just getting up to go to the toilet or flicking the kettle on can help. The recommended break is about every 20 -30 mins, or consider a standing up when you take phone calls to keep varying your posture throughout the day. Out of work try to get involved in a regular form of exercise ; walking, yoga, sports etc . As Gillian states, ‘movement is life – why be a stagnant pond when you can be a flowing river?’
If you have a back pain and would like to talk to our Osteopaths please ask staff in clinic, which will let you know when someone would be available to talk to you.
The research was carried out amongst a nationally representative sample of 2246 UK adults aged 16+between 14 August and 5 September. The British Osteopathic Association
The British Osteopathic Association is the largest professional association for osteopaths in the UK, acting as an independent representative body whilst promoting the highest standards of osteopathic education and research. Established in 1946 the BOA is committed to supporting, protecting and caring for its members and promoting opportunities for individual and professional development in osteopathic practice. For more information and to search for an osteopath, visit the website: www.osteopathy.org
BSc. (Hons) Ost.Med, ND, MRN