Joanna is an Osteopath who divides her time between practices in Cheselbourne and Poundbury, Dorset, where she works with people of all ages, and predominantly those in later life.
How many times have I treated someone with a “bad back” or sore back, shoulder or neck and the opening line is, ‘I was just …..’? You might expect, ‘moving a shed’, ‘lifting bookshelves’ or ‘driving in fence posts’; but surprisingly it is something as innocuous as ‘picking up a child’ or ‘reaching for bread from the bottom of the freezer’. Whatever causes the onset of pain, I suggest these contributory factors:
• going at a task suddenly, or for the first time
• doing it for longer than your body is used to
• not having a plan or adequate resources.
I do keep banging on about how very strong the body is, yet ‘Back attack’ is often ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’. So, while my five tips for avoiding ‘Bad Back Attack’ are common sense, they may help you when caring for others:
1. Plan military style
Does it need doing? Is it safe? When is a good time to do it? Should it all be done at once? Discuss the plan with the person you are caring for. Avoid getting overwhelmed and rally the troops if it looks like too much.
Remember, fail to plan, you plan to fail …
2. Get organised and pace yourself
What is your approach to all the jobs that need doing in a day? Do you work methodically like a marathon runner running strong to the finish, or, is your style similar to the modern decathlete, where you might select discrete tasks either randomly or progressing in difficulty? Whatever your style, your body is a tool and a logical approach will enable your body to ease into your tasks, so your back is less likely to be strained.
3. Protect your back when lifting
• Adjust your position to avoid twisting your back.
• Bend your knees, with your back easy and straight to reduce the loading on your spine.
• Lift slowly and gradually. Maintain a stable posture, feet at hip width.
• It is, all about the lever length, keep the load close to your body to reduce strain on the back.
• Breathe. Stop regularly and check in with your back.
Spinal structures are designed to function within set ranges of movement and suffer particularly under the combination of over loading and twisting.
4. Feel gratitude
Irrespective of the scale of the work, admire what you’ve done. Celebrate together with a cuppa.
5. Take your body back
Avoid soreness and stiffness by stretching. You might find time for walking, cycling or swimming after caring. Spending time on hobbies, or what you enjoy, relieves tension. Stress been found to be related to the development of back pain.
If you still experience problems with your ‘bad back’ seeing an Osteopath for lifestyle advice and treatment may help you.