According to the BBC a survey of 2,374 people, carried out by the BCA, found that 58% of the working population sits down most of the day at work and almost 51% of those who work refuse to leave their desk, even for lunch.
The spinal column is an extraordinary mechanism. It keeps us stable enough to stand upright but flexible enough for movement. The backbone, or spine, is actually a stack of 24 individual bones called vertebrae.
A healthy spine is S-shaped when viewed from the side (see Image 1). It is the body’s main structural support. It also houses and protects the spinal cord, the intricate network of nerves that runs through the vertebrae to transmit feeling and control movement throughout the entire body.
What is back pain?
Back pain includes sore muscles and tendons, slipped discs, fractures and other problems affecting the back. Back pain can develop over a long period of time, or can result from an accident or heavy lifting.
Back pain ranks high on the list of self-inflicted ailments. Most of our back troubles happen because of bad habits, generally developed over a long period of time. These bad back habits include:
• Poor posture
• Overexertion in work and play
• Sitting incorrectly at the desk or at the steering wheel
• Pushing, pulling and lifting things carelessly
Sometimes, the effects are immediate, but in many cases back problems develop over time. One of the more common types of back pain comes from straining the bands of muscles surrounding the spine. Although such strains can occur anywhere along the spine, they happen most often in the curve of the lower back. The next most common place is at the base of the neck.
Sometimes back aches occur for no apparent reason. This is called non-specific back ache. It may develop from weakened muscles that cannot handle every day walking, bending and stretching. In other cases, the discomfort seems to come from general tension, lack of proper sleep and/or stress.
A condition called fibrositis causes chronic back ache from localised muscle tension. Sometimes this original muscle tension comes from stress or other emotional problems.Pregnancy commonly brings on back pain. Hormonal changes and weight gain put new kinds of stresses on a pregnant woman’s spine and legs. (cont. below)
Keep in mind:
Ergonomics at work are very important and should not be replaced by exercise. Also the exercise and tips shown here are not meant to replace a medical or physio-therapeutic treatment when you are already having back pain.
A quick solution can be simple. Whether you’re sitting in an office chair or standing in a line, change positions frequently. Just move. Stand or sit, stretch, take a short walk. After returning to the standing or sitting posture, use an alternate posture for just a few moments and some of the tissue elasticity needed to protect the joints will return. Frequent or repetitive stretching to the end range of motion or awkward, angled postures can bind the joints. Unlike jobs that require long-term seating in an office chair, jobs that require frequent repetitive motion can cause great discomfort. Such jobs involve lifting from the floor, lifting overhead, moving bulky loads, or using rotational force or twisting while handling material and which signal back injuries might be on the way.
How to exercise the back
Look at your body as a mirror; when strengthening your lower back muscles, always make sure that you incorporate abdominal muscles as well in your training program. The upper back and the chest muscles work together as do the lower back and the abdominal muscles.
1. Dumbbell swing:
This exercise is a squat with a dumbbell swing; on the way up from your squat you raise your arms parallel to your shoulders always making sure that you keep your core tight. This will help you to strengthen up not just your lower back but also your abdominal muscles.
2. Arm row with resistance band:
This exercise is great if you haven’t got a gym membership and have limited equipment available. It helps to tone up your back but also your triceps. Start off in a lunge position kneeling down on one knee, both ends of the resistance band under each foot. Grab the resistance band with the hand opposing the leg out front. Then with a controlled movement pull the band towards your rib-cage making sure that your elbow is always pointing upwards.
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3. Bent over reverse fly’s:
This exercise is aimed for the upper back, the back area of the shoulder blades, which is extremely good for you if do a lot of desk work. By sitting a lot in a chair you may find that your upper back, your shoulder blades will slightly curve in and your posture will look slightly rounded. This is because you are releasing these muscles and they are not getting used adequately.
When doing the exercise keep the core nice and tight, gently lean forward keeping your chest out just like a proud turkey. Let your arms hang down loosely and relaxed – that’s the starting position. Then gently, with total control, raise your arms to shoulder height making sure that you have a gentle bend in your elbows as this will help you to protect your joints.
4. Kettle-bell swing and shuffle:
This one is similar to the dumbbell swing above with the difference of using a kettle-bell instead of a dumbbell. Kettle-bells are less balanced in weight and will engage your core more, also your abs will benefit from this change of equipment.
We are also adding a shuffle (a small jump) in-between our squats and standing up. When back to standing position with the small jump you bring your legs together and at the same time you swing your arm up in front of you, once again making sure that they are at shoulder height.
You can also add and combine the following exercises to strengthen your back further:
- Bent over row,