A bad back will affect most of us at some point but recovery from herniated discs, and pain management for osteoarthritis is possible. Back pain shouldn’t be a reason to stop living – and in many cases, with some modifications, people living with back pain can be comfortable and strengthen over time.

If you’re living with back pain, there are some movements that you should avoid, and others that are encouraged, to prevent and manage back pain.

Movements to avoid
Understand which movements trigger back pain. These are: bending, lifting, twisting, jolting, awkward postures or repetitive motions. These movements will come up all the time in daily life so adopt the mantra “think before you act” to avoid unnecessary pain.

Don’t….

Lift heavy items. Even an item weighing a few kilos can exacerbate a herniated disc, especially when you adopt strained and awkward postures simultaneously. This means that you can no longer reach for the cookie on top of the fridge.

Stay in the same position for an extended period of time because sustained postures cause strain on your spine. After twenty minutes of sitting, stand or vice versa. Keep driving to short distances or be prepared to pull over for frequent stretch breaks.

Sit on a very soft sofa, or one that is too low. You will probably injure yourself when it is time to stand up. Lying on your belly can cause strain as well so remember to sleep on your back.

Take out the garbage. Typically this task involves bending, heavy lifting and twisting, a trifecta almost guaranteed to set back your recovery time. The same goes for lifting any heavy objects, or lighter objects repeatedly. If the bin is too heavy, ask someone to help you out instead.

Go it alone. Good advice from a doctor can save you from prolonged pain or engaging in activities that only serve to exacerbate an existing issue.

Movements to embrace
A physiotherapist will set you up with a personalised exercise program to strengthen your back, core, tummy and thighs. These areas of the body interact with the spine to bear weight and movement. Giving these areas TLC is essential to managing back pain. Although our natural inclination is to rest when we are unwell, too much rest is proven to do more harm than good when it comes to back pain.

Do…

Squats. Stand with your legs apart and squat by pushing out your backside, keeping your knees over your toes. Keep the squat fairly shallow, lowering your backside no further than your knees.

Hand weight lifts. You might be surprised how using light weights with repetition quickly increases muscle tone. Avoid jerky actions: the key to success lies in controlled raising and lowering of weights in a range suitable for your body.

Walk. It is the simplest exercise you can do and the best. Take advantage of a sunny morning to build up the back muscles. The light tread will build muscle around your spine. Jogging or running will jolt vertebrae like an old car over potholes. Take your time to build up to high impact activities.

Seated crunches. This tummy workout is not taught in an ordinary exercise class. Instead of lying on the floor to do crunches, sit on a chair with fixed legs (a swivel chair is dangerous). Bring your backside all the way to the front edge of the seat, lean back a little then lift your knees towards your chest. Lift one leg at a time for beginners and both legs together when you need to take it to the next level. Tighten your core muscles and hold the side of the chair for balance.