Got a bad back? Then some of these tips may help...

It's estimated that a whopping 80% of all us will experience back pain at some point in their lives. I believe it's because in terms of our evolutionary history, humans have not been upright for very long, and our backs are still evolving to cope with it. This, compounded with the fact we have not evolved to lead the sedentary lives many of us do, like sitting at a computer for twelve hours a day. I have had a chronically bad back for around 8 years, 2 of my disks (L4 & L5) ideally need replacing. As I'm too much of a wimp to go for the op (totally removing and replacing both disks), I am able to keep the pain manageable by doing the following. If you have a bad back, then perhaps you could try doing some of these too! And even if you don't then they will help to keep you fit!
- Core strengthening exercises: I know everyone says how important it is to have a strong core, but it really is! My back problem started after I had the kids and my core muscles were non existent! My poor back was doing all the work with no help from the rest of my body. I now do exercises such as sit ups (ankles together, knees out to the side), planks and press ups, for 10 minutes, twice a day, every day. But its not just your core that needs to be strong, the rest of you does too! The fitter you are the better for your back as all of your body will be better equipped to take the strain. 
- Using a weighted hula hoop (see blog): This is probably the single most important thing that I have discovered that helps my back. In fact I was really seriously considering the op before I started doing it as my back was so bad. I have no idea exactly how it helps but I just know that it really does! I do a couple of minutes in the morning and a couple of minutes in the evening. I think it involves using core stabilising muscles that are otherwise never used. Best to start of warily until you know it is going to be ok for your back... you might feel a bit bruised after the first few times!
- Bike riding: I can't run with my back or even walk long distances, so I ride my bike and this really seems to help. It appears to loosen the back muscles and get them moving and make them stronger. 
- Olbas oil: I try to minimise using medicated rubs like Deep Heat, but like to use this oil  on my back when it's really stiff which contains natural anti-inflammatories and it seems to warm up and loosen the muscles. 
- Hot baths: They really help to loosen the muscles when they are very upset and in a spasm.
- Paracetemol & caffeine tablets: Paracetemol on it's own doesn't really seem to do much for my back, but when I take them with caffeine they are so effective! Apparently caffeine is not only a muscle relaxant but it improves the efficiency of the way paracetemol works. 
- Use a move stool: I have one of these special Varier move stools for working on. They are extremely expensive, at around £270 from Back in Action, but it really, really helps me and is worth every penny! You have to use your core to sit on it so you get a mini work out and means the muscles around your middle can't get lazy! You can adjust the height and they last forever.
- Use a Backfriend: This is a special mobile seat that you can put on top of the sofa or car seat to support your back a bit more. It's brilliant. Also from Back in action. Again it's expensive at around £60 but easily transportable so you can use it on all seats and even take on the train etc! 
- Avoid repetitive little back movements: Without really realising, every day we perform many of the same movements over and over again, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Try doing the move a little differently to use the other side of your body...sorry to be graphic (!) but one such movement might be wiping your bottom. Instead of going to the same side, try turning to the other side, and another might be getting into the car. Instead of getting in, sitting down and moving one leg then the other, try moving both legs together. 
- Have a good mattress: your mattress can really impact your back as you lie on it for almost half your life! If I have a dodgy mattress then my back will be unbelievably bad in the morning. Memory foam mattresses suit my back. 
- Sleep with a foam roller: try sleeping with one of these foam tubes between your knees, it will help to support your hip and back. They are under a tenner from Amazon. 
Obviously I am not a physician, and people's backs and their problems are different, but these are just things that i know help my back. Hope they might help you a teeny bit too! x

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