Has your back has been playing up recently? Back pain is common, with about eight out of 10 people having one or more bouts at some point or other.
Perhaps you’re suffering because of an injury or accident, or you may have a medical condition that causes back pain such as scoliosis. It’s more likely, however, that your back pain has developed as a result of your lifestyle.
Spending your days hunched over a computer and your nights glued to your smartphone can cause muscle tension and tightness. Other common posture problems that can make your back sore include:
- Slouching and slumping
- ‘Text’ neck (where your head is tilted down and shoulders rounded forwards)
- Phone cradling (holding your handset between your ear and shoulder)
- Standing and leaning on one leg (this puts too much pressure on one side of your lower back and hip)
The good news is there’s a lot you can do to improve your posture and make your back stronger and healthier.
Stand tall Try to hold your hips level when you’re standing. Think of a straight line passing through your body from the floor right up to the ceiling and imagine it’s pulling you up through the top of your head.
Be aware Always keep your posture in mind when you’re on your smartphone. Try not to hunch your shoulders when you use it and avoid staying in the same position for long periods (try to move at least once every 30 – 40 minutes).
Sit smart When using a PC or laptop, sit on a chair that gives your spine the support it needs and make sure your shoulders, hips and knees are facing the same direction. Adjust your chair so your feet are flat on the ground and your knees bent (ideally your hips should be a little higher than your knees and your eyes should be level with the top of your screen).
Look ahead The average head weighs 4.5 – 5kg. So it should be no surprise to find sitting with your head leaning forward from your body puts a big strain on your neck and back. Instead of leaning forwards, try keeping your head in line with your spine.
Stretch it out When using your laptop or smartphone, stretch your arms, shoulders and fingers every half hour or so to keep your muscles more relaxed.
For more help with your posture, try one of the following:
Alexander Technique A favourite with actors and performers, this helps you re-learn how your body should hold itself naturally by teaching you to think about the relationship between your head, neck and back.
Yoga Classic yoga poses help stretch your spine and strengthen the muscles in your lower back, both of which give you great body alignment.
Pilates An exercise system that boosts your body awareness, Pilates – like yoga – strengthens the muscles that keep your body perfectly aligned. Devotees claim it gives you great posture and helps prevent back pain.
Feldenkrais Method Like the Alexander Technique, the Feldenkrais Method re-educates your muscles through a system of body learning, leading to improved flexibility and co-ordination.
Body Balance Combining yoga, Pilates and t’ai chi, Body Balance helps lengthen and strengthen your muscles to improve posture and flexibility while at the same time reducing stress.
Barre workouts Based on ballet training, many of the moves in barre classes focus on standing long and tall, so not only will you tone up but your posture will improve too.
Pole dancing workouts Pole dancing isn’t just a lot of fun, it can also help improve your posture as it helps build strong core and back muscles.