Oooh my back!

The statistics are scary – an estimated 827,000 people suffer with work-related ill-health due to musculoskeletal disorders in the back and upper limbs* – and there will be more which are unreported.

I was recently on an Inanimate Load Handling course run by a man who qualified as a physiotherapist. He stressed that we need to take responsibility for our backs – it wasn’t bending to pick up something or turning to answer the phone that ‘ricked’ our back, it was likely to be the final straw of years of bad posture. If we don’t pay attention to how we sit and move, our muscles may be held tense in lop-sided poses, or we may twist when we lift and put unhealthy strain on our inter-vertebral discs.

Do you notice how you’re sitting when you’re driving? While you’re concentrating on traffic, the answer’s probably ‘no’. Perhaps at the traffic lights, just do a body scan and notice your arms, neck, back, ankles. If you’re slouching or sitting crooked, it may be that your seat or mirror needs adjusting. Similarly office ergonomics – where your chair is situated in relation to your desk and PC – are important to ensure you are sitting centrally and not stretching awkwardly. Also make sure you take regular breaks – have a brisk walk, do some stretching exercises, not forgetting your fingers and hands.

It takes effort to remember to engage the core muscles for a flatter tummy and strong back and to hold our head, which can weigh about 10 to 12 lbs, in a way which will not put stress on our upper spine. A simple thing like crossing your legs, particularly above the knees, constricts blood flow and tilts and twists your pelvis.

Consider taking steps to ‘rebuild your back’ and shed old habits- look out for Pilates classes or the Alexander technique for guidance. You might also like to try a chair massage – a seated, clothed 20 minute treatment – see On site massage on the Treatments page.

Health and Safety Executive Statistics – 2004/5*

‘Southwell Life’ – September 2006

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