Five Common Back Problems And How To Fix Them

Looking after your back is an important part of life no matter how young, fit or flexible you are.

Our modern lifestyles are culprits of a huge array of potential back threats. One of the biggest is the chairs we sit in.

But other things, like heavy bags, bad shoes, even too tight trousers can, over time, lead to a series of complicated and even agonising problems.

In this article we outline 5 common back problems faced by the modern person and how we can start to address them.

#1 Slouching in your chair

Humans are not designed to sit for long periods of time. However, the majority of people find themselves sitting for over 10 hours each day.

So, good posture whilst seated is important.

People often slouch unconsciously, as sitting upright requires engaging a number of core muscles. Over time this places strain on the muscles and soft tissue in your lower, and upper back as well as your neck and shoulders.

What to do:

Begin by being aware of your posture. When sitting, keep your back straight, shoulders back and abdomen tucked in. At first this will be uncomfortable as your muscles aren’t conditioned to work like that, but keep at it!

Stand up and walk around every half an hour or so, even go so far as to do a few stretches by your desk.

Exercises to help:

  • Plank/ Side plank
  • Hip thrusts
  • Lunges
  • Seated row

(Scroll to the bottom of the article to see more details on these exercises.)

 

#2 Flat Back

A flat back causes you to stoop. It means your back is straight instead of naturally curved with the pelvis pushed forward.

This can make it difficult to stand for long periods of time, adding all sorts of aches and pains to our back muscles.

Spending long periods sitting down can also contribute to a flat back.

What to do:

Flat back is likely an indication of weak core strength, so you are going to want to start doing regular core strengthening exercises.

  • Plank/ Side plank
  • Leg raises
  • Chest stretches
  • Seated row
  • Pull-ups

The opposite of this is anterior pelvic tilt which causes an excessive curve to the spine. This can be helped with many of the same exercises.

#3 Standing on one Leg

If you’ve been standing for a while you will likely find yourself leaning on one leg, maybe shifting between the two. It may feel more comfortable to do this than standing firmly planted on two legs.

However, when you do this you place extra pressure on the side of your lower back and hip.

If this is something you do a lot, perhaps you work standing up, this can lead to muscle imbalances and muscular strain in the lower back and buttocks.

Other guilty culprits that cause bad lower back and hip problems are things like carrying a heavy bag over one shoulder.

What to do:

Wear a backpack with both straps, distributing the weight evenly. Also, don’t overfill it. If you want a single strap bag, our Healthy Back Bags are specifically designed to contour to your spine, spreading the weight evenly across your shoulders and down your spine.

Strengthen your glutes and lower back.

Do frequent stretches to stretch out those tightening muscles.

Exercises to help:

  • Plank
  • Sidelying leg raises
  • Lunges
  • Squats

#4 Hunching/ Text neck

If you spend your days bent over your keyboard peering into your screen then you might often catch yourself hunching and aches will begin to appear in your back.

Hunching indicates weak upper back muscles and a tight chest.

This type of posture can cause you to develop a rounded upper back with shoulder and back stiffness.

As well as this, when hunched over your keyboard or bent over your phone screen, you may find yourself poking your head forward which can further this problem of tight shoulders.

Correcting a poking chin involves improving your sitting habits and exercises to correct your posture.

What to do:

  • Gently lengthen your neck upwards as you tuck in your chin
  • Seated rows in a gym or pull-ups
  • Chest stretches

 

#5 Rounded shoulders

Rounded shoulders are when you naturally stand with your shoulders rolled forwards. To test this face a mirror and relax. If your knuckles are facing forwards it indicates you have tight chest muscles and a weak upper back.

Rounded shoulders are typically caused by poor posture habits (like slouching), muscle imbalances and focusing too much on certain exercises, such as too much focus on chest strength while neglecting the upper back.

What to do:

Strengthen your upper back and stretch your chest muscles:

  • Plank
  • Seated rows in a gym or pull-ups
  • Chest stretches

 

The Exercises:

Below are just a few exercises you might want to try. If you are unsure how to do any of the exercises, we suggest you ask a professional. Some incorrectly performed exercises can be more damaging than helpful.

#1 Plank and Sideways Plank

Lie on your front propped up on your forearms and toes. Keep your legs straight and hips raised to create a straight and rigid line from head to toe. Don’t allow your lower back to sink during the exercise. Your shoulders should be directly above your elbows.

Alternatively, balance on one side, again keeping the part of your body touching the floor in line with your shoulder and your body rigid and straight.

Focus on keeping your abs contracted during the exercise. Hold this position for as long as you can.

#2 Side leg raises

Lie on your side with one arm tucked under your head. And raise and lower your leg slowly in a controlled fashion.

 

#3 Seated Row (Rowing machine)

This is one of our personal favourites as it works your legs, core, arms and upper back.

Remember to keep your back straight as you move through the motions.

#4 Pull-ups

These require a fair bit of upper body strength. However, you can do assisted pull-ups using various machines in the gym or resistance bands.

#5 Chest stretches

Various yoga poses are excellent for this such as upwards facing dog.

A good stretch to try is standing with your back to a wall, then with your arms at 45 degrees press back against the wall.

#6 Lunges

Step into a lunge lowering one knee to the floor and then moving back into a standing position.

Repeat this with alternating legs ten times (each side).

#7 Squats

With your feet firmly planted on the floor shoulder width apart, lower yourself down as low as you can go without lifting your heels.

Keep your back straight and stay as upright as possible. You should feel like your are about to fall backwards.

A good trick for beginners is to place a chair or box behind you, gently touch the chair or box and then stand up again back up again. This will stop you from tipping backwards.

Alternatively, put something under your heels to tilt you forwards, allowing you to drop further into the squat.

You can find more detail on many of these exercises and on dealing with back problems online in places like the NHS health blog 

 

Share your knowledge of dealing with back pain in the comment section below.

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