How to Care for Your Back When You Don’t Really Wish To Do So

The statistics of those suffering from back pain is high, with numbers in the millions. We can translate the stats into a percentage of the population with the staggering 60–80% of people experiencing back pain to various degrees during their life time.

Many articles have been written on how to take care of your back, with prevention of back pain always being preferable to having to go through rehabilitation. The causes of back pain are well known ranging from poor posture and ergonomics, lack of appropriate and regular exercise, poor diet including fluid intake, how we carry items and the weight of the items all the way through to pain from accidents. The accidents can be work related, accidents in the home, road traffic accidents or even from leisure activities such as sport. There is a high percentage of back injuries coming from sports such as rugby, football, diving especially into shallow water or water of unknown depth.

How to prevent back pain is fairly well documented. These include details such as:

- Sitting in the appropriate chair

- Taking care of the height of work surfaces, and other ergonomics

- Making sure to get up and walk about or change position every approximately 45 minutes

- Doing exercises to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles

- Bending your knees when picking up anything rather than bending at the waist.

I can list more specifics related to the principles of back protection however what I would like to address is what you can do when you really don’t want to put in the effort to do your exercises, attend to ergonomics, eat healthily etc.

This is a tough question and we will address it with six tips

1) Build in Incentives to Change Position at Regular Intervals

If you prefer to stay seated at the computer or at your desk and can’t be bothered to get up and change position, set up your schedule so that you are forced to get up regularly. Some ideas include:

- Keep your water bottle or flask a distance away from your desk. That does not mean that you stop drinking the recommended 8–12 glasses of water or tea in the day. It means that when you have finished drinking one glass or cup, you will have to get up to fill the glass again.

- When going to fill your glass or cup, make sure to take a longer route, this enables you to stretch your legs and get a little walking in.

- Place your “To Do List” a distance away from you so that you have to get up to go and check, mark off or update your list. Again, this does not mean you no longer use that list, it means that you get up to get a little exercise when going to your notice board or wherever you have your list

- Think of other tasks you need to do in the day that you can place away from where you are seated in order to force you to get up and change position.

2) Use your smart phone for good

At the start of the day, program into your phone some alarms. Space them at times you are unlikely to get up to do something. When you hear the alarm go off, get up and stretch your legs. If you have to, place your phone a distance away from where you are working so that you have to get up to turn off the alarm.

3) Find Enjoyable Exercise

Inactivity has negative consequences to one’s health. Find the type of exercise that you will enjoy and schedule this into your weekly routine. It is best to engage in exercise 3–5 times a week. If you need any specific exercises to suit any specific health needs, make an appointment with a physio or biokineticist to evaluate you and prescribe the exercises that meet your health goals and needs

4) Find a Good Role Model

When you find anything to be a challenge to carry out, it helps to have a good role model. Make sure it is someone who sets a good example and will reinforce your goal to take care of your health and your back. A powerful example would be the late Christopher Reeve who had an exercise routine even after he began quadriplegic. He needed assistance to get onto his exercise machine and to be strapped on, with the machine doing most of the work, but he understood the importance to one’s health and well being of engaging in physical exercise on a regular basis.

5) Develop the Right Mindset

It is easy to get into the habit of not doing something that is important. However, just like when you own a car, the car requires being taken care of and regular servicing, so does your body. Remember, if you neglect to clean and polish your car inside and out, you run the risk of your car rusting and the upholstery perishing. If you neglect to top up the various fluids and check parts on a regular basis, you run the risk of all kinds of accidents taking place. The best way to avoid a car accident is to take care of your car and to follow all road rules. In the same way, the best way to avoid injury to your body is to take care of it — daily.

6) Develop a Reward System

When enjoying health and the ability to be productive is not enough, set up a reward system to help you to take care of your health. Remember, if your reward is any type of junk food, this can lead to weight gain and other problems. It is preferable to find other rewards that are meaningful to you such as enjoying a bubble bath after doing your exercise routine ‘x’ times in the week. Or having ‘x’ time to spend in nature when you fulfill ‘y’ goal for your health. The reward will be up to you. If you are really stuck, put a coin or counter into a jar every time you achieve your goals and when your jar is full, use those coins to buy yourself something you will enjoy.

I hope this will help you to take care of your back. Freedom from back pain enables one to be more productive and to achieve the goals you need to or want to achieve. If you are still having difficulty, taking care of your health and your back, schedule an appointment with an occupational therapist who specializes in health and wellness and in back rehabilitation.

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