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New survey reveals back pain often preventable

New survey reveals back pain often preventable

A nationwide survey by Physiotherapy New Zealand has revealed that slouching and lifting heavy objects are often to blame for back pain.

More than 90% of those surveyed had experienced some type of back pain and they cited heavy lifting (35%) and poor posture (32%) as the top causes or triggers of their pain.

The survey also showed some troubling self-treatment methods, with one in five saying they would use bed rest as a treatment method.

Physiotherapy New Zealand president Gill Stotter says it’s alarming that so many New Zealanders are affected by preventable back pain at some stage in their lives and think that taking to their bed is the answer.   

“It is one of the most common reasons for time off work and yet in many instances it’s something that can be prevented. I think this shows that we have more work to do in making simple changes to our movements – particularly in the workplace where we spend so much of our time.”

“Improving our posture and taking care when lifting heavy objects are simple steps that we can take to help protect our backs in the future. This is particularly important to office workers who may be sitting hunched over at their desks for hours without breaks or stretching.”

The survey showed one in two people are sitting for more than six hours a day.

“My message to anyone experiencing mild back pain is to stay active. Bed rest as a treatment is a myth, and one that we need to stamp out. The evidence clearly shows that being inactive or taking to your bed will not help. If you’re afraid of certain exercises then a physio can advise on the level of activity and particular exercises that are right for you.” 

The survey also revealed:
• Of those who had experienced back pain: 79% had sleeping problems as a result, 46% had missed out on sports or activities and 37% had taken time off work.
• The top three causes or triggers of back pain were: heavy lifting, poor posture and an accident or fall. For those under 30 the top causes changed to: poor posture, lifting heavy objects and sitting for long periods.
• 62% thought that back pain was due to something being out of place.

Ms Stotter says that it is time to start challenging some of the myths that still surround back pain.

“Something being out of place is a common misconception for back pain sufferers and it shows the need for more education. In reality most back pain is caused by strains to the ligaments, tendons and muscles that support the back. Manipulating the back often provides pain relief and assists with restoring joint movement but it does not ‘pop’ something back into place.”

“If you are one of the millions experiencing back pain then remember that keeping active is really important. If your back pain is due to poor body mechanics or weak posture then it can be easily treated, and more importantly prevented.”

Physiotherapy New Zealand has produced a free ebook called ‘Taking Care of Your Back’ on the treatment and prevention of back pain. For more information or to download the guide visit

Tips for taking care of your back:

Stay active.
One of the best things you can do for your back is to get some regular exercise everyday. The aim of this exercise (aside from making you feel good) is to build strong, flexible muscle that will help support your spine.

Avoid heavy lifting
Avoid lifting objects that are too heavy or ask someone to help you. When you do lift, do it with your knees. Pull in your stomach muscles, and keep your head down and in line with your straight back. Keep the object close to your body and avoid twisting while lifting.

Becoming more aware of your posture is the first step to improving it. Check yourself (you may like to set a reminder) throughout the day to see if your body is in alignment. Try to avoid unbalanced postures which include crossing the legs unevenly while sitting, hunching the shoulders or leaning the head to one side.

Take regular breaks.
Your body was not designed to sit all day so it’s essential to keep moving. If your job involves sitting in one position then make sure you take regular breaks. Stand up, stretch, or even do a little exercise.


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