Managing back pain through COVID-19 response and beyond
Changes to living and working conditions could have back pain implications for many but these can be avoided say health experts
A potential spike in back issues could be an unforeseen consequence of the recent changes to many people’s living and working routines, but these can be avoided say health experts.
The ongoing response to COVID-19 has included long lockdown periods, with many people either not being able to work or changing the way they do so by working from home. This has led to many being more sedentary than normal which has potential implications for their backs. However there are some simple measures people can take to recover from, or reduce the chance of, back pain.
“It’s time to change the way we think about back pain,” says Tauranga Hospital Clinical Lead Physiotherapist Jennifer Stillwell. “Our backs are strong, resilient structures and research has shown that 98% of back pain cases are not serious, and most cases will clear up in due course.
“While back pain is uncomfortable, it is important to keep moving, stay in work where possible, resume normal activities and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
“What we do day-to-day is very important to help keep us healthy and prevent back pain. There are simple things that can be done to recover from pain and/or reduce the chance of pain returning.”
Follow these five tips to keep your back in good shape:
1. Keep active – exercise has been shown to be the most helpful treatment for preventing recurrent back pain. Even with back pain, exercise is safe. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, as long as you remain active. So choose something that you like to do it, and keep at it!
2. Work smart – customise your work station to and change position frequently.
3. Sleep well – good sleep habits can help improve back pain and mood. Pillows can be helpful for getting into a comfortable position.
4. Stretch out - keeping flexible helps maintain normal joint function and good movement which promotes a healthy spine.
5. Lift right - the back is designed to bend, twist and lift. When lifting heavy objects stand as close to the object as you can, and use your legs and knees rather than your back or upper body. If the item is too heavy, get help.
If your back pain is affecting your activity and is persisting, seek advice or support. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists in the UK have produced the following video on managing back pain: https://youtu.be/24P7cTQjsVM
Simple exercises for back pain
A simple daily exercise programme for your back has been proven to reduce the severity of back pain. These exercises are:
• Lie on your back, hands above your head or by your side.
• Bend your knees and roll them slowly to one side, keeping your feet on the floor.
• Hold for 10 seconds.
• Repeat three times on each side.
Knees to chest
• Lie on your
back, knees bent.
• Bring one knee up and pull it gently into your chest for 5 seconds.
• Repeat up to 5 times on each side.
• Tighten your stomach muscles to keep your back straight while gently pushing your hip forwards
• Hold approx. 20 secs then relax
• Repeat three times each leg
• Lying on your back with knees bent and arms by your
• Tighten your stomach muscles and press the small of your back against the floor letting your bottom rise
• Hold 5 secs. and then relax
• Repeat 10 times
• Start on your hands and knees in a
• Let your arms slide along the floor as far as possible, sitting your bottom back onto your heels.
• Hold for 30 seconds.
• Repeat 3 times.