5 ways you are ruining your back – and how to stop doing it

By Nichola Adams
Photo credit: Kelvin Murray - Getty Images

From Runner's World

Running has been proven to be good for the back, but as soon as we sit down, if we don’t adopt a good posture, we put our backs at risk of injury.

Developing back pain is usually a gradual process. If you slouch when you sit, you will slowly be causing soft-tissue changes and elongating muscles which pull on your spine. Lengthened muscles get tired more easily, with the slouch squashing our discs.

The biggest areas of risk from poor-sitting postures are our shoulders and lower back. If you've been working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic and have found you're finishing each day with a sore back, here's what to do about it:



How should you sit for good back health?

Ideally, when we sit down, we should mimic the same healthy ‘S’ shape of our spine that we adopt when we stand correctly, stabilising muscles to keep our spine healthy.

So, always sit back in your chair, with your arms rested by your side, in line with the desk and not extended forwards onto the desk.

To keep your back healthy, always try to use the support of the backrest with your lower-back curve cradled.



What am I doing wrong to get a bad back?

It’s time to develop some new good habits and avoid these five common pitfalls that are ruining your back:

Back-Wrecker #1: Using a laptop for hours at a time

Bad habit:
When using a laptop, we will usually just open it up and type away. However, this encourages you to bring your shoulders forward and drop your neck down, putting pressure in your upper back, neck and shoulders.

How to stop: Always raise the laptop up to the correct eye-level height and use a separate keyboard and mouse. This will instantly help you to correct your posture.


Back-Wrecker #2: Sitting slouched at your desk

Bad habit: Slouching when working is a trap that’s easy to fall into. Sitting tall keeps the spine healthy. Even if you are using monitor screens, the tendency to slouch will be encouraged if your screen is too low and your keyboard and mouse are too far away, causing you to lean on the desk.

How to stop: Always raise the top of the screen up to eye-level height and use the keyboard and mouse close to the front of the desk instead of reaching forward to engage with them.

Back-Wrecker #3: Sitting all day without enough standing breaks

Bad habit: Neglecting rest and standing breaks when we’re working hard is all-too tempting. But it is vital that you take standing breaks regularly from sitting. Even just the act of standing up is helpful in restoring oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and discs.

How to stop: Remember to stand at least once an hour and move around more whenever you can. Set a timer, or another trick to ensuring you do this is to drink lots of water.

Back-Wrecker #4: Not drinking enough water

Bad habit: If you forget to keep drinking fluids, you place yourself at risk of becoming dehydrated. Drinking enough water is key for good back health as well as overall health and wellbeing. The frequently quoted guide is around eight glasses a day.

How to stop:

You can either fill up a jug or large bottle at the beginning of the day to help you measure your intake, or keep a record of glasses filled throughout the day.

Back-Wrecker #5: Not walking enough

Bad habit: During the current lockdown, it’s vital that we keep moving, even if those distances are drastically reduced. It helps to keep our muscles strong and aids recovery. A few walking breaks throughout the day – up and down the corridor, around the garden, up and down the stairs – can all help to achieve this.

How to stop:

Build in gentle, as well as brisker, exercise into your everyday life. Keep moving as much as you can.

Nichola Adams, the Founder of Inspired Ergonomics, is one of the UK’s leading back-pain experts, advising companies on how to minimise the risk of back pain in the workplace. She’s also a keen runner.

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