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Back Care

Back exercise programme

The aims of this exercise programme are:

  • To improve the muscle tone and strength in the abdomen, back, thigh and buttock muscles. Functional and efficient muscles are an absolute necessity both to maintain and protect your back from further damage.
  • To increase the range of pain-free spinal movement. Often a stiff back can lead to tension and pain.
  • To improve your general fitness. The better your health the greater your chances of beating your back problem.
  • To stretch postural muscles.

General Advice

  • Stop any exercise that produces or increases your pain.
  • Perform each sequence of exercises once a day.
  • Begin by doing each exercise five times at each session and then increase it by one per day up to ten times per session.
  • Walking and swimming are good exercises for the spine.
  • Even if you have no pain or stiffness continue this exercise programme once daily to maintain your present level.

Exercises

Perform these exercises on a firm surface e.g. carpeted floor.

  • You may feel more comfortable with a small pillow behind your head.
  • All exercises should be performed smoothly and steadily.
  • Make a regular time each day for your exercise sessions.
  • Do not exercise straight after a meal or when tired.
Remember – If any of these exercises increase your pain stop

Exercise Position One – Lie flat on your back, knees bent, feet flat on floor.

1. Tighten buttocks, then abdominal muscles and press the hollow of your back onto the floor. Hold for a count of 3 then relax.
2. Keeping knees together, gently swing legs to the right and then the left, letting the knees go as far as possible before returning to the centre.
3. Lift head and shoulders reaching hand towards knees. Hold for the count of 3 then relax.
4. Lift hips clear of the floor. Hold for a count of 3 then relax.

Exercise Position Two – Lie flat on your back.

1. Flatten your back onto the floor, bend right knee up towards your chest, give it a gentle pull with your hands. Lower. Relax. Repeat with left leg.

Exercise Position Three – Lie flat on your front.

1. Place hands, palm down onto floor, directly under your shoulders. Straighten elbows, leaving the rest of your body relaxed and your hips in contact with the floor. Relax.
2. Lift your leg upwards off the floor. Hold for a count of 3 then relax. Repeat with the other leg.

Exercise Position Four – Kneeling on all fours, shoulders and hips at 90

1. Gently hollow your back and raise your head, then curl your back tucking your head in (keep arm straight at all times).

Exercise Position Five – Standing feet apart.

1. One foot in front of the other, bend knees down to a squat position then stand up slowly keeping your body erect.
2. Gently stretch your right hand down to the outside of your right thigh, towards the knee. Return to the midline. Repeat towards the left knee.

Always finish your exercise session by performing ten repetitions of this last exercise

1. Standing feet apart – place hands in the hollow of your back. Gently lean backwards. Return to upright position.

Back pain in the work place - Laptops can damage your back

Back problems caused by work used to be associated mostly with lifting heavy objects. For some people, such as nurses and care workers who have to lift people, this is still true, but with the decline of heavy manufacturing industry, back problems caused by work should have decreased.

What's happened instead is that we've found new ways of damaging our backs – and computers are among the worst offenders. Even the handy laptop can cause back problems.

Laptop computers were initially designed to be easily portable and used for small data entering tasks, requiring only short periods of computer input but as more people are using them for longer periods of time, the damage their incorrect use can do to backs is beginning to emerge, including:

Laptop hunch: when someone is using a laptop, the typical posture is neck bent, head lowered and protruding forward, shoulders rolled in and chest sunken. The spine loses its normal S-shape and is arched forward making back pain likely.

Most laptops have a small keyboard on a thick, flat base, so users have to raise their wrists and hands to reach keys in the back row. This put strains on wrist, hand and shoulder muscles.

Because they're designed to be portable, laptops are used in all sorts of non-office environments – at home, on the train, in hotel rooms. Apart from the hunching caused by a worktop that's the wrong height, bad lighting can cause screen glare. If the laptop is turned to lessen the glare and is then at an awkward angle to the keyboard, necks and upper backs can suffer.

An average laptop weighs about 4kg and with power adapters and other accessories, the weight soon builds up. How many people carry their computer bags slung over one shoulder, or dangling from one hand? Heavy weights carried incorrectly risk long-term spinal damage.

Reducing the risks

  • The best solution is not to use laptops as replacements for desktop computers.
  • In the office, they should be used with a separate, high-clarity, height adjustable screen, a keyboard and an independent pointing device (such as an external mouse) at a docking station.
  • Failing this, the laptop could be raised on a special stand or blocks to provide a more convenient height for the screen and used with a separate keyboard and pointing device.

What to look for when purchasing a laptop

  • Lightweight – if possible 3kg or less, including accessories. A large screen, detachable if possible.
  • A long life battery to avoid having to carry power transformers.
  • A lightweight carrying case with shoulder straps for ease of carrying but without computer logos on the outside to reduce the risk of theft.
  • Tilt adjustable keyboards.
  • Casing which incorporates a space (wrist pad) between keyboard and front edge.
  • A docking facility.
  • Ability to plug in both external keyboard and a mouse simultaneously.
  • Non slip feet to avoid sliding on work surfaces.
  • Large memory and high speed to suit needs of tasks and to avoid stress to the user.
  • If applications need significant input via a pointing device, choose one with an external mouse, rollerball or touchpad, rather than a 'nipple' trackpoint or joystick.