All about backs

So long as our backs don't actually hurt, we tend not to think too much about them. Having said that, about 80% of the population suffer from back trouble at some point in their lives. Are our backs made to stand the strain? Does walking upright on two legs result in too much stress on our spines?

The human spine is a fantastic construction. Although our vertical stance does give rise to a certain degree of strain, our backs are made to absorb it. Even four-legged animals suffer from back trouble in their old age, and slipped discs are as common among horses and dogs as they are among human beings. But a word of warning! Our lifestyle has a negative effect on our backs. Research has indicated that smoking and sitting still increases the risk of back pain. Even certain repetitive movements can cause damage, such as lifting awkwardly as with a twisted back.

Choose a bed that feels comfortable and is well constructed. The degree of firmness that is right for you depends on your weight. It is important that your whole back is properly supported - neither too much nor too little.

Be sure to change your sitting or working posture frequently. Sitting still for long periods of time is not good for your back. Movement, on the other hand, has a decidedly beneficial effect.

Support your back. Your entire spine should be well supported, whether you are sitting or lying down. If possible, have some kind of support for your arms when working in a sitting position.

When lifting, hold the object as close to your body as possible, in order to reduce the stress on your back. You can stabilize your back when lifting by tightening your stomach muscles. Never twist your body at the same time as you lift something! Avoid turning your body at the same time as you bend your back, as this can result in considerable strain.

Try to exercise regularly. Exercise counteracts calcium build-up in the joints, improves the supply of nutrients to your spinal discs, and is generally beneficial to your back. Reports show that 30 minutes exercise, three times a week, is enough to keep your back in good shape.

Avoid smoking. Smoking inhibits the supply of nutrients to the discs between your vertebrae. Discs are made up of a jelly-like substance, protecting your spine by acting as shock absorbers. A series of tests have shown back pain and slipped discs to be more common among smokers than non-smokers.

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