Tag Archives: back

Top tips for preventing back pain in the workplace

It’s reported that 3 out of 4 people have back pain in their lives and 85% of those are undiagoned, meaning there is no specific medical reason why.
SO WHY?!

chained to the desk

Do you ever feel like you’re chained to the office desk?

Considering how much of your day is spent at work, you’re probably right for thinking so! Plus it’s reported 4 out 5 British workers eat their lunch at the desk so we really are chaining ourselves to the desk!

The office environment presents all sorts of physical stresses on the body.   Monitors too low for your eye-line, chairs too high or too low, phones stuck between the ear and shoulder, RSI and shoulder strain from repetitive typing without correct support, wrong lighting causing eye strain…. shall we go on?!

But one of the biggest problems we face is sitting down all day, and lets face it, most of us leave work and go home to sit all evening on the sofa! This long period of inactivity causes the spine to:

  • Slouch and gradually compress against gravity
  • Adds strain to the lower back
  • Forces the mid back to overly round and tighten the chest and weaken the back support muscles
  • Pushes the head further further, adding to neck strain, headaches and increasing load added onto the spine.
  • Shortens and tightens hip flexors
  • Weakens the important abdominal core muscles
  • Reduces space for the vital organs

So what’s the solution?

I quit quit1

Ok, maybe not! But thankfully it is possible to make a few changes that will reduce the time and how you sit at your desk and improve your back pain.

  • Swop your chair for a stability ball. Posture is greatly increased by working your core stabilising and back muscles as you sit on a ball, as well as been shown to lead to better circulation, upper body mobility and less beck and joint pain.
  • Get a raised desk and do away with the chair at all! LinkedIn staff did this and saw a 50% reduction in back pain from not sitting down!
  • Ensure typing is done with wrist support resting on the desk. Awkward positions when typing can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Get a hands free set for your desk phone. No more holding the phone between your ear and shoulder which causes neck and shoulder pain. Plus hands free means you can stand up and walk around more so less time sitting down.
  • Get a grip!  We’re losing our grip power as most things we do is by finger touch. Building up grip strength by making and tightening a fist (without tightening your shoulder and neck) will exercise the forearm and the small muscles in the hands, reduce the effects of typing RSI  and carpal tunnel syndrome and give you great toned triceps too!
  • Wiggle at your desk. if sitting still is the enemy, then have a little wiggle. Circle your ankles, flex and point the toes for improved circulation- do the same in the wrists. Stretch your neck by tipping your ear to your shoulder, circle your shoulders, lift your chest up to the sky and lengthen your spine, circle your pelvis like a clock to move the lower back.
  • Counter balance the effects of desk working by doing some Pilates regularly. Move well every day with some forward bending, side bending, twisting and back bending/extension will go a long way to helping to reduce the effects of sitting down all day.
  • Make the tea! Getting the teas/coffees in for your team will not only get you out of the chair and moving your spine but it’ll also make you more popular too! We suggest you use the handy colour chart to get the right strength of your colleagues favourite brew… mine’s a Builders Brew!

what's your strength brew?

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Written by: Michelle Smith
Director, The Pilates Pod
www.thepilatespod.co.uk

The man, the legend and his creation

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”

Do you buy that? Smart words you might think?  These are the words of Joseph Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method. Except back in  the 1900’s when he devised this fantastic system of movements, it was called “Contrology” (only later becoming Pilates after his death)

So let me just get this right… Pilates was created by a man?
How many men do you know these days who do Pilates or even less, how many teach it? Yet the system was originally created by a man and taught to hundreds of men. And not just “a” man, Joe was a man’s man!  A cigar smoking, beer loving, womanizing, man!

Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) always claimed that he was far ahead of his time with his system of exercises and he was right. In the early 1920’s he started his first studio in New York City, but today Pilates is known internationally as a key staple exercise and movement programme. Not a fad that came and went, not a wishy washy airy fairy exercise, not something that didn’t make you break a sweat, but a system of carefully controlled (hence the name Contrology) flowing movements designed to return you to life. It’s no wonder then that his (second) book in 1945 was named just this “Return to Life through Contrology”  (his first book was “Your Health”)
These days the Pilates method is taught and practiced by millions of smart cookies all over the world, who’ve cottoned on to the fact that this Pilates thing will make your back feel strong, your whole body feel toned, your vitality and energy increase, make you stand taller, walk and move easier….. basically it will make you feel fan dabby tastic!

Joe based his concepts for Pilates on having a balanced mind, body and spirit and took some of his inspiration from the early Greeks. He studied scientifically and experimentally into what upset the balance of these things.  Sleep, posture, stress, technology all played a part in his research.  You might not even know that much of Pilates work was outside of the actual exercise system we now know and love but that he also had his views on how we should sit on a chair, sleep in our bed, and built furniture to help us get this balance.
He believed in correct breathing being the basis of it all, as it is in life. Adding in body movement and mechanics, spinal flexibility and physical education.

Quite simply Pilates is a method of exercise designed to bring about balance in your body through strength and flexibility. If the body is restored to balance, it can move effortlessly without strain.  Most of the time, we are completely unaware of these stresses and strains being added to the body, causing us to be out of balance. Until it’s too late and the injury sets in to the point of letting us know about it. An ache or niggle here, later leading perhaps to more pains and a trip to the osteopath or doc.

Sure, doing Pilates will, as Joe wanted, return you to life and restore your imbalances once you have them. But imagine if you will a life where doing Pilates meant you didn’t get the imbalances in the first place?! That’s what’s it’s all about. It’s functional, basic movement. Strength training, flexibility training, body balancing.

You can (and should!) use it to help your sport improve, to get you out of back pain, to prepare your body for motherhood, to deal with the physical demands on a young developing body, or to managing the issues we face as we get older. It’s perfect for everyone; male and female alike.

In Pilates we refer to a “two way stretch” That’s one of the really cool things about it, you are always focusing. As one part of your body strengthens, the other side is stretching. Imagine in a gym, you’d have to use two machines for that. In Pilates, just the one exercise will do both! As your body becomes stronger, it also becomes longer = flexibility and strength! Winner!

We focus on the inner workings of the body, what some refer to as the “powerhouse” or “core.”
The deeper muscles of the body can’t be seen but can still be felt, and it’s these smaller postural muscles that help us with proper alignment whilst we go through our everyday movements. An imbalance in these muscles means we can’t work as efficiently, we are more likely to injure.  Time off work, time off the sports pitch, time off picking up the grandchildren for a cuddle. Do you want that?

But it doesn’t stop there! Pilates is a full body exercise. You use your brain to move your body so it’s great for the grey matter! You simply don’t have head space to think of the shopping when you’re doing Pilates, so a natural stress reliever.  We also use the limbs; our arms and legs, so you’ll be getting them stronger too.

In fact, Pilates as a class may help you in the studio, but just think of the all the benefits it gives your whole life outside the class room! For a full Pilates experience, you should also be using the equipment such as the “Reformer” to really condition the body, but it’s so easy to start with just you and a mat, anywhere, anytime.

And what’s not to like about that?! Just be sure your teacher knows a bit about what they are talking about!

For more information on Pilates, check out www.thepilatespod.co.uk

 

 

Are we a nation of pill poppers?

“The one thing that is taking up GP’s time is those arriving with back pain.”doctors waiting room

That was the view in the Cambridge News recently, reporting on how we are a nation obsessed with the control of pain and the taking of pain relief. We’ve all done it- reached for the headache tablets when our head is pounding and thanked those little white pills for sweet relief when it’s gone. But what happens the next day and the day after that when the same headache comes back?

A recent study from The Lancet journal has revealed that paracetamol is no better for back pain than placebo. With 26 million people suffering from back pain in the UK, that’s a pretty big number of people reaching for the bathroom cabinet supplies and keeping the pharmaceutical company rich!

Of course there are people who’s lives and conditions rely on medication, we’re not talking about those here naturally. But have we become reliant on the “quick fix” of those little tablets to get us through back, neck or headache pain on a daily basis?

Deal with the cause and not the symptom

From a previous life coping with back pain from a car accident, I know too well of the joy  you feel from re-occurring visits to the osteopath where your back is temporarily “fixed” only for it to spring back again a few days or weeks later and rely on that fixing again. Or to manage the pain with Tens machine and medication that was offered to me with the NHS. Do you want to spend your life like that? I got fed up relying on someone or something to “fix” me and started looking for ways to manage myself and that’s when the lightbulb moment happened.

lightbulb moment

Sure, that’s dealing with the symptoms, but what is the cause?!

In my case the symptoms were back and neck pain, spinal stiffness from being locked up on impact and muscular spasms. But the cause (obviously we know the car accident was the culprit) was that my spine was no longer in alignment, my neck was too far forward, my mid back twisted and locked up, my lower back and pelvis had been trying to cope with this imbalances and caused pain.
After the initial physio help and no help from the Tens machine, I invested in Self Management Tools, better known as Pilates!

It’s really important to get your spine checked out. A good osteopath or chiropractor won’t just look at the symptom (tight hamstrings, sore shoulders etc) but look at the whole spine and realign your spine and pelvis into it’s optimal position, allowing your muscles and joints around it to then work freely and without restrictions. But without some sort of “management tools” to help keep your spine and pelvis aligned, this trip back to the docs or osteoapth  can be a frequent (and expensive) reoccuring one!

For me, once a week doing Matwork lead to 3-4 times a week on both Mat and Reformer and guess what…

magic wand Hey presto, the magic happened!

I was moving my body again in all directions; forward flexion, side bend, rotation twist and backwards extension and feeling supple. I got stronger in my centre and core, my glutes starting working and the pain disappeared. My body started to help itself!

At first I didn’t realise it, but after a couple of weeks I began to think “hang on a minute, my back hasn’t been hurting like it usually does!” and then I realised what I’d been doing differently- Pilates!

But it’s not really magic is it, it’s just a bit of common sense.  Pilates isn’t a magic pill but it’s sensible, controlled movement. Pilates is exercise, exercise is movement, movement is what makes us feel better!

Move often, with control, stability and mobility. Stretch, strengthen, feel better!

And you can look forward to chucking those pills in the bin!

For more info on how Pilates can help you, see www.thepilatespod.co.uk