It’s easy to dismiss back aches and pains as symptomatic of advancing age, but the truth is that back problems can strike at any time, often simply as a consequence of poor posture or over exertion when performing manual work, playing sport, or carrying out household chores such as moving furniture, clearing out heavier items of junk or gardening for extended periods. Even something as simple as sitting incorrectly or in the same position for too long – such as when driving long distances without a break – can trigger pain.
In the vast majority of instances the aches, pains and stiffness resulting from these activities are confined to the lower back area and are the consequence of additional stress placed upon the muscles and joints whose job is to support the upper body. Isolated instances of lower pain are not generally indicative of more serious back problems and, given a chance to recover without further aggravation, shouldn’t take long to disappear.
The importance of appropriate rest and recovery
The problem with back aches and pains is that they often don’t become apparent until, some time after the activity which caused them, has ended. If you haven’t quite finished moving those last heavy boxes of junk or weeding that last corner of the lawn the natural temptation is to finish the job at hand without realizing that you may have already over-exerted your back.
Whilst back pain caused as a result of limited over-exertion is uncomfortable and an annoyance, in most cases it can be successfully self-treated with painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol and appropriate rest and recovery. If the pain is localized, initial relief may be achieved by applying a hot or cold compress or taking a warm bath.
Knowing when you’ve overdone things and allowing your back to recover without further aggravation is important. Extended periods of bed rest were once believed to be the best way to recover, but research has shown that inactivity may actually do more harm than good. Those who remain moderately active and maintain a positive outlook in the face of back aches have been shown to recover the most quickly. Simply walking around is sufficient activity to aid back recovery although, obviously, anything strenuous and especially lifting, pushing or pulling heavy objects, bending unnecessarily or maintaining an incorrect posture when standing or sitting should be avoided.
Ways in which further pain can be avoided during rest and recovery
Clearly, the activity which resulted in back pain in the first place should be avoided during your recovery. This might be as straightforward as foregoing your weekly game of squash or not driving for a while, but if you are clearing out your home, tidying up the garden or moving furniture as the result of, for example, an imminent house move your best option would be to seek the help of professionals who can provide the services you need.
Lifting and handling heavy or unwieldy objects is one of the most common causes of back pain and injury and should be avoided at all costs. Hire professionals to do any work around the house that involves heavy lifting or repetitive straining, for example very light housework can be good exercise but undertaking a big spring clean or house clearance isn’t a good idea. Even if you take a lot of pride in looking after your home, put your health first and hire in some help. Similarly, you can cheaply hire a local landscape gardener or handy man to take care of your gardening needs whilst your back recovers. The key to recovery is knowing when to let your body recover, and letting someone else take the strain for you rather than risking greater injury and further pain.
However, activity does not necessarily have to be physically demanding in order to have an adverse effect on a back which is recovering from pain. Even something as simple as using a laptop or personal computer can lead to neck and back strain, so it is vital that your desk or work area is arranged ergonomically in order to eliminate the need to stretch, twist or over-reach unnecessarily for items such as phones or documents whilst working at a keyboard.
Tips for preventing further aches
The best way to avoid further instances of back pain is to be aware of your own physical limitations; knowing how long you can drive or play sport for, or the maximum weight you can lift comfortably before incurring back pains is invaluable to avoid further episodes.
Certain aspects of lifestyle can heighten the risk of pain: excess weight exerts pressure on the spine and back muscles, stress and anxiety can result in muscle tension in the neck and back and smoking may cause tissue damage which can ultimately lead to pain. People who lead a more active lifestyle, regularly walking or taking other moderate exercise have a lesser tendency to back aches and pains, as do those who maintain an upright, balanced posture when standing or sitting.
Amy Sawyer is a freelance writer from www.anyjunk.co.uk if you’re clearing quantities of household junk you can get the job done properly and inexpensively by employing a professional junk removal company such as Anyjunk, letting someone else take on the strain and heavy lifting.