4 OF THE BEST EXERCISES TO DO FOR A BAD BACK…

The best way to prevent lower back pain is to exercise regularly and engage in strength training so that your core and back muscles are strong. A regular stretching program to keep you limber will help too.
However, if you already have back pain, contrary to popular belief, you still can and should start exercising to strengthen your body. You just need to take it slower and easier… but you need to exercise.


In most cases, it’s the lower back that will hurt. So, the muscles that you want to strengthen will be your glutes, hip adductors, core, abs and back muscles. The goal here will be to challenge them gradually so that they get stronger over time. You can’t just bang out a set of deadlifts with heavy poundage and expect to get away with it.


You’ll need to take it slow so that you don’t aggravate your condition. In this article, you’ll be given a few exercises that are very beneficial for back pain sufferers. Most are low impact and will not aggravate your condition.


It’s also essential to get approval from your doctor before engaging in any exercise routine when you’re suffering from a bad back.

  1. Planks
    There are many different types of planks such as forearm planks, side planks, knee planks, reverse planks and many more. Have a variety of them in your training so that you target different muscles. These planks will strengthen your core… and a strong core is the first step to preventing back pain, or reducing it.
  2. Bridging
    This is one of the best back exercises out there, and yet it’s often neglected. Lie on your back and bend your knees so that your feet form a right angle. Now push off your heels and raise your hips off the ground. Your knees, hips and shoulders should be aligned and form a straight line. Lower your hips and repeat again. Do this for 10 to 12 reps.
  3. Deadlifts
    This is one of the cornerstones of weight lifting. It requires good technique and proper form. You can learn how to do it from a trainer at the gym or by watching videos online. Always remember not to use too much weight, and not to jerk. Slow, controlled reps is what you’re aiming for. The weight you use should allow you to do about 10 to 12 reps. If all you can lift is a bar with no weights, then that will do.
    You’re not trying to build mass or become a bodybuilder. The goal is just to strengthen your back so that you’re not in pain. You can progress over time.
  4. Bird dog
    Similar to the plank, and challenging too. There is minimal impact. Get into a kneeling position with your palm on the floor. Now, straighten your right leg outwards and above the ground, while you straighten your left arm outwards too.
    Now you’ll just be balancing on your left knee and right arm. Hold the position for about 5 to 10 seconds… or longer if possible. Now repeat on the other side.
    If you do these four exercises regularly, you’ll strengthen your back and core, which in turn will make you less susceptible to back pain. Do note that you should have a day or two of rest after training. Approach your training with a slow and steady mindset, and you’ll be stronger in a month or two.

There are lots of websites and YouTube videos on all of the above exercises if you find it easier to watch how to do them. Little steps is the perfect way to start these and only after you have spoken to your GP.

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE IN THE WORKPLACE…

Don’t ignore the warning signals if you feel stiff or sore, advises leading UK back-pain expert and ergonomist Nichola Adams, who offers you her 6 Top Tips on how to sit with the correct posture, wherever you are working.

As an ergonomist, my consultancy work takes me all over the country. I’ve spent the past 14 years travelling the UK, advising around 3,000 individuals and hundreds of British businesses on how they can minimise their risk of back injury in the workplace.

My role in the corporate sector, supporting both companies and individual employees, often involves me assessing people’s posture at work and I’m usually asked to conduct a formal Ergonomic Workstation Assessment to check whether someone’s workstation and chair are set up to support a healthy posture. This is so important when we are sitting down for hours at a time at our computers, to avoid tension and pain build-up and to keep our backs healthy.

As you may imagine, I’ve witness some pretty harrowing set-ups, meeting people who are blissfully unaware that their posture, seating arrangements and furniture are pretty much ‘an injury waiting to happen’.


Whether you are working from home or at your office, it is very important to maintain a healthy posture, especially if you are working for more than an hour or two.

The same rules and guidance apply whether you are working at your computer or your laptop: and the buzz words of the moment are “Motion is Lotion!”

My work involves advising employers on the risks of back injury in the workforce and how this can affect a company’s performance. I often say to people I meet: “Your next posture is the best posture!”. In other words, just keep moving.

When you have a sensitive back or a back injury, you also need to reduce the amount of time that you are adopting a bad posture and increase the amount of time that you are adopting a healthy posture.

This is because assuming the correct posture supports recovery from any back issues you may have, allowing oxygen and nutrients to reach your tissues and muscles.

So, here are my 6 Top Tips on How to Improve your Posture at your Workstation…

1. Avoid slouching by moving your screen up: The main cause of back tension build-up that I witness is people being slouched over their screens or laptops. Don’t be a ‘Slouched Potato’. When you are using your laptop, always try to raise the screen so that it’s closer to your eye height. Avoid slouching down over it. Instead, raise your screen up on something and use a separate keyboard and mouse. With a laptop, in essence you are trying to adapt it so that it is similar to a desktop computer set-up. With a desktop screen, you should raise it up to eye-level height and bring your keyboard and mouse close up to the front of your desk so that you are not having to extend your arms forward when using them.

Don’t be a ‘Slouched Potato’.

2. Adapt your desk to suit you, never vice versa: Take a fresh look at the whole of your desk set-up. The rules are that screens should be about arm-distance away, that your keyboard and mouse should be close to the front of your desk and that your chair should be nice and close to the front of the desk, too. What we are trying to achieve is that everything is close to you and you are not reaching or leaning forward to use them. You should adapt your desk to suit you, and not adapt to suit it.

Re-examine your chair set-up.

3. Re-examine your chair set-up: First of all, you should raise the height of your seat so that your arms are level with the desk and that you are not reaching up or reaching down to use your keyboard. If that means that your feet are raised off the floor, then use a footrest. The second most important thing is that your lower back curve is properly supported at the right height and depth to suit your body, so adjust the lumbar support of your chair accordingly or use a cushion. Once you have made this important adjustment, this will also discourage you from slouching and will make you feel like you are properly supported.

Take a break at the water cooler.

4. Take a break at the water cooler or stand up for phone calls: Listen to your body when you feel uncomfortable because it’s your body telling you that it is time to move. At the very least, you should be moving once an hour. Even just standing up is good as the physical act of standing gets everything moving through your body. The flow of blood and nutrients will nourish your discs and muscles. Optimally, I would try to take a breather every 20 minutes. But even if you’re just taking a standing break for a minute or two, just the act of standing is beneficial. Some clever tricks for remembering to do this include standing up whenever you are on the phone; or remembering to drink lots of water, which means having to wander over to the water cooler or bathroom. Then rest breaks will also help your hydration. Even better, take your laptop or papers over to a higher surface so that you can stand while you are looking at your screen. Just try and break things up.

Stroll round your office for exercise.

5.     Stroll on! Take regular exercise: Always try to build in some regular exercise into your working day. Get off one stop early if you are commuting to work and walk the last section to your office. The same on the journey home. Take a lunchtime stroll. If you can’t get out, you could even take a short stroll around your office. When you’re working from home, unfortunately the temptation is just to sit down and start working, then to work all day and forget to exercise. So be extra-strict with yourself and make sure that you take a break, for example at lunchtime. Just get up and go for a walk around your home or, better still, get outside for a bit and soak in some valuable Vitamin D, too.

6. Breathe deeply to lower your stress levels: Don’t forget to breathe as breathing can really help us to reduce our stress levels. It can also help us to re-focus. So, take a few moments out of your busy day to remember to take some deep breaths. It’s not always easy to remember, so set your watch on a timer. Then do some deep breathing. The routine that works for me is to take a deep breath IN, for a count of four beats, and then exhale that deep breath OUT slowly for a count of eight beats. That helps me to re-energise my brain and body. I recommend it to you, it is quite invigorating!

Take a moment to breathe deeply.

In summary, if you stay static, adopting a poor posture for too long, your body will tell you what’s wrong immediately. 

Your body will start to feel sore and stuff. This amounts to an oxygen depletion in your body, which is sending signals to your brain that you need to move. 

So, take note of these signs: watch your posture and move whenever you can. Listen to your body, stretch up and upright as often as you can and keep moving.

And above all, don’t ignore the warning signals.

Combining the Greek words ‘ergon’ (meaning ‘work’) and ‘nomoi’ (meaning ‘natural laws’), ergonomics is the science of making products and tasks comfortable and efficient for human use.

· Nichola Adams, MSc Health Ergonomics, Tech CIEHF (Technical Member of The Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors), Reg Member ACPOHE (The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics), is one of the UK’s leading back-pain experts and the Founder of Inspired Ergonomics (inspiredergonomics.com)

Pictures : Giles Barnard

UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF BACK PAIN IN YOUR LIFE…

Suffering from chronic or even just acute back pain can be a very challenging ordeal. Only a fellow back pain sufferer can truly understand just how debilitating and depressing the condition can be.

Your quality of life suffers when you’re in pain all the time. Most people not suffering from this condition just can’t seem to understand the devastating effects of this condition. It often seems like the patient is exaggerating or ‘weak’… when in reality, the pain can last for months or even years.

The mental and emotional toll
The first step to coping with this condition is to understand how it can impact your life. Depending on the severity of the pain, besides just medication and physiotherapy, you may also wish to speak to a counselor or a professional. The emotional and mental toll that back pain takes can leave you feeling stressed and depressed. You just might need someone to speak to.

Everything gets harder
When even a slightest jolt makes you groan in pain, you must come to terms with the fact that your mobility may be limited. You may have to walk slower, move more carefully, and tasks that were a breeze before may be of a Herculean nature now.
Carrying a bag of groceries may leave you in agony. Even simple actions like getting up from a chair or reaching for the TV remote may send spasms of pain shooting up your spine. You must be careful of everything.

When your activities are severely restricted, you may find yourself becoming more dependent on others. This may make you feel like you’re imposing and your sense of self-worth decreases. Let your close family and friends know that you may need help occasionally. My family are my back up team and can tell just by my voice if I’m having a bad day.

As difficult as it may seem, now more than ever, you need a positive attitude and the grim determination to persevere and beat the pain.

Fear
This is nothing to be ashamed of. Almost all adults fear pain. It’s just the extent that varies. You may experience fear and not just of pain but also your general wellbeing.

On the other hand, you may fear going out or engaging in other activities just in case you worsen the pain. The advice here is to use common sense. If the activity is a visit to the beach or a walk by the park, go ahead. The fresh air and change of scenery will do you good. I always say this is the hardest thing to deal with as more often than not the bell doesn’t ring until I’ve walked to far and then I have the walk back.

Fearing everything will just make you stay indoors and your life could become monotonous and sedentary. This will actually worsen the situation. Activity will improve your blood circulation and keep your muscles stronger and reduce your back pain.

Social life
Your social life may suffer because of your pain. You’d rather stay indoors than go out and have fun. It’s difficult to have fun when you’re in pain.

The pain could make the entire activity a chore. You’ll need to be open and speak to your partner about it. Do not withdraw and get angry or disappointed, instead pace your social life so you can enjoy going out.

Your career
The hard truth is that you may have to quit your job if it’s one that has a lot of manual labour. If you work at a desk, your workstation may need to be adapted to suit your condition. Working from home is another option if this is possible.

At the end of the day, just know that you’re not alone in this. It may seem like a small consolation, but the fact that there are millions of people with chronic back pain doing the best they can to lead ‘normal’ lives should inspire you to stay strong.

Keep finding ways to improve your condition and get better. Even if all it takes is a positive attitude, that itself will reduce your mental stress and make you feel better.

Blogging has helped me over the last ten years. I’ve made lots of amazing friends on here who are always around to listen if I’m having a bad day and the support groups are brilliant.

YOGA POSES AND BOOKS TO HELP RELIEVE BACK PAIN AND FIBROMYALGIA…

Yoga is very effective for relieving back pain, and thousands of people have used it to strengthen their muscles and alleviate the pain in their backs. It’s great for stress relief, improves your posture, increases your flexibility and makes you aware of the limitations of your own body.

It’s VERY important that you speak to your doctor first before doing any form of yoga. In most cases of acute back pain, yoga will be a wonderful way to relieve the pain. However, if you’re suffering from osteoporosis related back pain, scoliosis, etc. which are more serious conditions, you must get your doctor’s approval FIRST. I know I keep stressing this but it is essential that you should never try any type of Yoga or other exercise without the all clear from your GP as you may do more harm than good, and that’s the last thing you want to do.

Many people may not wish to join a yoga class because it can be intimidating, or even embarrassing if your back hurts and you can’t execute the moves without moaning and groaning. This is perfectly understandable.

The good news is that you can do yoga in the privacy of your own home. All you need is a yoga mat, suitable clothing, and the right poses. In this article, I have given a few common poses in yoga that will really help to soothe the pain in your back while strengthening your muscles, according to lots of websites.

Cat/cow
This is a very easy move that will stretch your torso and back while giving your spine a gentle massage. All you need to do is get on your hands and knees like you’re about to crawl. Then arch your back upwards like a cat would, hold it for a secondor two… then lower the back down till it’s concave. Do this about 5 to 6 times.

Downward facing dog
No yoga routine would be complete without this move. It’ll strengthen your lower back, hamstrings and core. Once again, get in a crawl position with a table top back. Now lift your knees off the ground, and raise your hips up so that your body forms an upside-down V. Hold this position for about 5 breaths, and return to starting position.

Child’s pose
An excellent move to de-stress your lower back. Again, start from crawl position and slowly sit backwards so that your buttocks are on your heels. Keep your upper body straight. Now lean forward till your forehead is almost touching the floor, and stretch out both arms as far forward as you can. Hold the position for about 7 to 10 breaths.

Seated spinal twist
Another excellent pose for really stretching out the tight muscles in your back. This move is highly effective, and in many cases will bring immediate relief to a tight back.
Start in a seated position. Bring your left foot and place it on the outside of your right knee. Now bend your right arm and place your elbow on the outside of your left knee. The right elbow acts as a stabilizer to keep your body from shifting. Now, turn the trunk of your body to the left and try to look over your left shoulder. This will stretch the side of your back. Hold for about 3 to 4 breaths, then switch legs and repeat the move on the other side.

These 4 yoga poses are easy to do, don’t require much space and you can do them safely in the comfort of your own home. Most importantly, they are highly effective. There are many other yoga poses that can help relieve your back pain.
Do your research and compile a list… and you can do them often. Once you start, you’ll never look back. Three great books on Yoga which are all under £5 or free on Kindle are –

The Yoga Bible for Beginners – it has 30 essential illustrated yoga poses for better health, stress relief and weight loss by Charice Kiernan.

We live in a fast-paced world in which our senses are constantly stimulated. Yet, this progress comes at a cost. We are constantly tempted to keep up with Joneses, and many people have lost the connection between their mind and body.

Yoga can help restore this balance. For example, one study showed that yoga – even when practised for the very first time! – can normalize levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In this book, you will be taken by the hand so you can develop your own yoga practice and take back control of your health and happiness. £2.99 on Amazon Kindle

Ten Minutes Yoga for Stress Release Focus & Renewal – this is by Lisa Shea and us the short version of her full hour-long routine. It can be used when you travel, when your busy, and pretty much any other time that you need to keep your time quick. Free on Amazon Kindle

Study after study finds that yoga helps with lower back pain, depression, energy levels, balance, post-traumatic stress, focus, sleep, and much more. Whether you need to reset after a busy day or wish to have more joy in your daily life, they say yoga can help. It nurtures your body and embraces your soul

It has been written to help those who are in need of support find a step toward a more contented life. This book helps you understand the personal sequence of poses, to create an atmosphere of stress relief and forgiveness.

Finally, the third book is Yoga: 40 Exerecises for Beginners by Sophie Godard. Flexibility, balance, relaxation … These exercises for beginners enable you to practice this multifaceted discipline at home. They will help to relieve stress, strengthen your muscles and your mind so that you can focus on yourself and free yourself from tension. £3.40 on Amazon Kindle

The NHS say this about yogaDozens of scientific trials of varying quality have been published on yoga. 

While there’s scope for more rigorous studies on its health benefits, most studies suggest yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity, especially strength, flexibility and balance. 

There’s some evidence that regular yoga practice is beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains – including lower back pain – depression and stress.

But they suggest a class first – It’s better to start with a class to learn the poses and breathing techniques correctly. With a DVD, there will be nobody to correct your mistakes, which may lead to injury over time. 

With some experience of being in a class, a DVD can then be helpful for keeping up practice.

They have the following links to Yoga sites –

The main UK yoga associations are:

These associations all list teachers and classes near you on their websites. You can also search for a local class or teacher using our Fitness directory.

6 SIMPLE TREATMENTS TO HELP WITH BACK PAIN…

Back pain can be a nightmare. People suffering from chronic back pain are usually

willing to try anything just to make the pain go away. They may try acupuncture, and

if that doesn’t work, they may try hydrotherapy, and if that fails too, it’ll be the next

method or another.

In most cases, it’s not just one method that helps. A combination of methods to treat

the problem on different fronts may be the only option. Acute back pain is usually

treated initially with a few holistic measures which could include –

REST

This is the best short-term solution, but I stress the short-term solution. If you have a

bad back, rest is essential for the healing process. You’ll need to lie down, but you

shouldn’t lie down for too long because it increases pressure on the spinal discs.

Intermittent rest Is what you’re aiming for. If the pain is bad, lie down for about 15

minutes and get up soon as you can and move around slowly.

A HARD BED

You want to use a firm mattress that provides sufficient support. Do not lie on the

floor because this can exacerbate your condition. Place a pillow under your knees

when lying flat. This will ‘flatten’ your spine and ease the pressure. If you’re lying on

your side, place a pillow between your legs to reduce pressure.

MEDICATION

If the pain is bad due to inflamed spine tissues, you’ll need to use non-steroidal anti-

inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) to help relieve your pain. Some of these

medications are strong and may have side effects such as gastric pain. So always check

with your doctor before taking any.

GLUCOSAMINE

This is a natural remedy and while it will not work overnight, in the long run it can be

very helpful for protecting your cartilage. You can get a bottle of glucosamine at most

supermarkets, Boots or health shop.

LIGHT EXERCISE

This may seem to be the last thing on most people’s minds, but light exercise can

work wonders. Choose low impact activities like Pilates and yoga. The goal will be to

strengthen your core and back muscles. Thousands of people have watched their back

pain diminish and disappear once they started doing Pilates and yoga. These exercises

will make your body more limber and stronger at the same time.

Any imbalances in your body will also be corrected. For example, if your abs are weak

and your midsection is protruding and placing stress on your back muscles, Pilates

will strengthen your core. With a strong core, you’ll be able to hold your belly in

without your back propping you up. You’ll also lose weight because of the exercise,

and this too will ease your back pain.

STRONGER MEDICATION

Depending on the severity of the pain, the doctor may either give you medication to

to take orally, or you’ll be given an injection in the affected area. These are temporary

measures to relieve the pain, but can last a few weeks to a few months. However it’s a

post code lottery if you can have the injections so try not to become to reliant on them

like I did. You’ll still need to find other methods to help improve the situation.

These are some of the common remedies for acute back pain. Of course, there are

other methods such as nerve pills, muscle relaxant pills, multivitamins, etc. However,

these merely treat the symptoms. A good physiotherapist/ chiropractor/ osteopath or

pain clinic are a great place to start your treatment.