We’ve all had days where we’ve stood up, arched our backs, and let out a long, low, grandparent-like groan.
Lower back pain is one of the most common ailments adults experience but it can be alleviated with a surprising number of small lifestyle changes.
Here are some common causes for back aches, and how to fix them.
One of the most common reasons for back pain is inactivity – sitting at our computers at work, the car on the way home, and on the couch binge watching the new season of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Osteopath Anna Mamone said keeping active and mobile was one of the best measures to prevent serious issues, such as disk pathology.
“Office workers mainly complain of mechanical lower back pain, such as stiffness and postural strain from being immobile,” she said.
Mamone advises her patients to keep active throughout the day by setting reminders on their computers or phone.
“Have a reminder to stand up and walk around, get the joints moving,” she said, adding there are simple exercises and stretches that can be done at the workplace, such as using a massage ball to help reduce the lower back muscles from tightening.
Ditch the pills and supplements
There’s plenty of attractive ads for supplements to relieve lower back pain – but little research to support that they work. And, according to Osteopathy Australia chief executive Antony Nicholas, even the use of painkillers isn’t supported by evidence.
“Recent research has found taking paracetamol or ibuprofen is probably a waste of time,” he said. “People experience a nice placebo effect, but that’s about it.”
Add some heat
While pills might not work, a simple heat pack does.
The idea of warming a heat pack in the same microwave your colleagues heat their pungent lunches in might not be pleasant but, according to osteopath Anna Massingham, it’s a good way to relieve back pain.
“There’s evidence for using heat therapy, and more evidence for the use of heat over ice to treat back pain,” she says.
So pull that heat pack out of the stinky microwave and prop it on your chair while you work.
Fix your posture while you’re awake and asleep
Mamone tries to teach her patients postural awareness to monitor how they sit at home and at their desks.
“It’s about being mindful, learning corrective positioning and maintaining it,” she said, adding ergonomic assessments of the workplace were a good idea.
Those who sleep sprawled out on their belly are at a higher risk of developing back pain.
“Sleeping on you back or side is better, with an adequate mattress and pillow,” Mamone says.
When your back is already aching, Nicholas says, one of the worst things you can do is sit back and relax.
“People think, I’ll go home and have a rest, take some painkillers – but that’s the worst thing you could do,” he says. “Best practice advice is around maintaining activity.”