Experts say two-thirds of us have suffered some form of back pain by the time we’re 30. And after coughs and colds, it’s the most common cause of days off work.
But rather than lying flat on your back, or popping painkillers, you can beat backache.
Backache is the second most common cause of long-term sickness in the UK, after stress. But stress and back pain are closely related. New research by charity BackCare reveals our stress levels, coupled with faulty beliefs, can actually predict our chances of developing long-term back pain.
Stress causes the body to respond differently to physical stimuli. Back pain is very real, but it is now believed to be caused by abnormal signaling from the brain, rather than damage to the back itself.
So instead of physical remedies such as painkillers or chiropractic, the focus has moved on to psychological treatments including cognitive behavioural therapy. If you suffer from persistent backache, ask your GP about talking treatments to see if they could help.
Stress may be the most common cause of back pain, but some physical factors do make backache more likely. One is sitting for long periods during the day, which bends our backs forward. This put pressure on the front of the vertebrae (the bones in our spine), which in turn squeezes the discs of cartilage between them so they bulge out, triggering backache.
Being overweight can also cause back pain. Excess weight puts pressure on all the joints, but a large stomach can pull the pelvis forward, arching the back and squashing discs in the spine.
A lack of exercise is also to blame. Not only can it lead to weight gain, it means you won’t be putting your joints – including your spine – through their full range of movement. They can then become stiff, lose their mobility, and eventually seize up.
Arthritis may also be a factor. Wear and tear affects everyone, but keeping the joints fit and healthy with exercise can help reduce inflammation and the rate of decline. If arthritis runs in your family, it’s even more important to look after your back.
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