Pain in the back is a very common health issue, affecting many people in the UK. In most cases pain isn’t caused by anything serious and will get better over time, but it can be painful and debilitating to live with. If you suffer from back pain, relaxing in bed or on the sofa may seem like the most appropriate remedy, but staying still and not moving the back muscles can actually make the condition worse. Instead, health professionals promote keeping active and exercising the affected muscles in order to improve symptoms.
This will strengthen the muscles and increase flexibility to provide a stronger, healthier back.
However, it is important to make sure you don’t overdo it and ensure you take care when exercising, as poor practice can make back pain worse.
Physiotherapist Lyndsay Hirst, writing in Waitrose’s magazine Health New Year 2019: 365 Steps to a Healthier, Fitter and Happier Year, recommends the ‘cobra’ stretch to relieve back pain.
“To help easy back pain, try a simple stretch like the cobra,” said Hirst, who is a physiotherapist at Your Pilates Physio.
To do the cobra stretch, lay on your tummy with your hands either side of your head, and palms facing down.
Inhale to prepare, and as you exhale push your head and chest away from the floor. Keep your palms on the floor and extend your elbows as far as you feel comfortable.
Hold for a few seconds and inhale again as your lower your head and chest again to the floor.
The NHS also recommends yoga and pilates for improving the symptoms of back pain, as well as other activities like walking and swimming.
Health officials advise getting 150 minutes of exercise per week and avoiding sitting for too long when at work.
“Stay as active as possible and try to continue your daily activities – this is one of the most important things you can do, as resting for long periods is likely to make the pain worse,” said the NHS.
“Simple back exercises and stretches can often help reduce back pain. These can be carried out at home as often as you need to.”
The NHS also offers exercise programmes which may be beneficial for people with back pain.
These classes are led by an instructor who teaches participants a mix of exercises to strengthen the muscles and improve posture.
Physiotherapists may also be able to provide manual therapy, such as massage treatments which manipulate the spine.
The NHS advises seeing a medical professional if back pain doesn’t start to improve within a few weeks, or if the pain stops you doing your day-to-day activities.
Also see a doctor if the pain is very severe or gets worse over time, or if you’re struggling to cope with the pain.
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