Back Care Awareness Week (3rd-9th October 2016)
World Spine Day (16th October 2016)
World Osteoporosis Day (20th October 2016)
Treating back pain
Treatments for back pain vary depending on how long you have had the pain, how severe it is, and your individual needs and preferences.
The various treatments for back pain are outlined below. You can also read a summary of the pros and cons of the treatments for back pain, allowing you to compare your treatment options.
Short-term back pain
Initially, back pain is usually treated with over-the-counter painkillers and home treatments. Most people will experience a significant improvement in their symptoms within six weeks.
Top 10 tips for a healthy back, including lifting advice, how to sit properly and back-strengthening exercises.
- Exercise your back regularly – walking, swimming (especially backstroke) and using exercise bikes are all excellent ways to strengthen your back muscles.
- Always bend your knees as, not your back.
- Learn to lift heavy objects using the correct lifting technique.
- Carry larger loads in a comfortable rucksack using both shoulder straps, and avoid sling bags.
- Maintain a good posture – avoid slumping in your chair, hunching over a desk, or walking with your shoulders hunched.
- Try to take a short break from sitting every 30 minutes.
- Quit smoking – it’s thought smoking reduces the blood supply to the discs between the vertebrae, and this may lead to these discs degenerating.
- Lose any excess weight. Use our healthy weight calculator to find out if you’re a healthy weight for your height.
- Check that your bed provides the correct support and comfort for your weight and build, not just firmness.
- Learn relaxation techniques to help manage stress. Stress is a major cause of back pain.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break.
It’s a fairly common condition that affects around three million people in the UK. More than 300,000 people receive hospital treatment for fragility fractures (fractures that occur from standing height or less) every year as a result of osteoporosis.
Wrist fractures, hip fractures and fractures of the vertebrae (bones in the spine) are the most common type of breaks that affect people with osteoporosis. However, they can also occur in other bones, such as in the arm, ribs or pelvis.
There are usually no warnings you’ve developed osteoporosis and it’s often only diagnosed when a bone is fractured after even minor falls.
Your genes are responsible for determining your height and the strength of your skeleton, but lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise influence how healthy your bones are.
Regular exercise is essential. Adults aged 19 to 64 should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.
Weight-bearing exercise and resistance exercise are particularly important for improving bone density and helping to prevent osteoporosis.
As well as aerobic exercise, adults aged 19 to 64 should also do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week by working all the major muscle groups, including the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.
If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP or health specialist before starting a new exercise programme to make sure it’s right for you.
Weight-bearing exercises are exercises where your feet and legs support your weight. High-impact weight-bearing exercises, such as running, skipping, dancing, aerobics, and even jumping up and down on the spot, are all useful ways to strengthen your muscles, ligaments and joints.
When exercising, wear footwear that provides your ankles and feet with adequate support, such as trainers or walking boots.
People over the age of 60 can also benefit from regular weight-bearing exercise. This can include brisk walking, keep-fit classes or a game of tennis. Swimming and cycling aren’t weight-bearing exercises, however.
Resistance exercises use muscle strength, where the action of the tendons pulling on the bones boosts bone strength. Examples include press-ups, weightlifting or using weight equipment at a gym.
If you’ve recently joined a gym or haven’t been for a while, your gym will probably offer you an induction. This involves being shown how to use the equipment and having exercise techniques recommended to you.
Always ask an instructor for help if you’re not sure how to use a piece of gym equipment or how to do a particular exercise.
Eating a healthy balanced diet is recommended for everyone. It can help prevent many serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and many forms of cancer, as well as osteoporosis.
Calcium is important for maintaining strong bones. Adults need 700mg a day, which you should be able to get from your daily diet. Calcium-rich foods include leafy green vegetables, dried fruit, tofu and yoghurt.
Vitamin D is even more important for healthy bones and teeth because it helps your body absorb calcium. Without Vitamin D any Calcium you eat will just pass through your bowels. Vitamin D can be found in sunshine, eggs & oily fish. Milk also contains small quantities of Vitamin D, but a glass of milk a day is NOT enough Vitamin D for a healthy individual.
However, most vitamin D is made in the skin in response to sunlight. Short exposure to sunlight without wearing sunscreen (10 minutes twice a day) throughout the summer should provide you with enough vitamin D for the whole year.
Certain groups of people may be at risk of not getting enough vitamin D. These include:
- People who are housebound or particularly frail
- People with a poor diet
- People who keep covered up in sunlight because they wear total sun block or adhere to a certain dress code
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
If you’re at risk of not getting enough vitamin D through your diet or lifestyle, you can take a vitamin D supplement. For adults, a minimum of 10 micrograms a day of vitamin D is recommended (=400IU), but some recommend higher doses, particularly if you are vitamin D deficient. There is a high percentage of people in the general population, who are Vitamin D deficient and do not know.
The recommended amount for children is 7 micrograms for babies under six months, and 8.5 micrograms for children aged six months to three years. Talk to your GP for more information.
Other lifestyle factors that can help prevent osteoporosis include:
- Quitting smoking – smoking is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis
- Limiting your alcohol intake – the recommended daily limit is 3-4 units of alcohol for men and 2-3 units for women; it’s also important to avoid binge drinking
Get some sun!
Between May and September, sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium.
This process helps strengthen teeth and bones, which in turn helps prevent conditions such as osteoporosis.