According to NHS England back pain is the largest single cause of disability in Britain.
The Mirror reports that it is often everyday habits that are putting people at risk and have shared simple steps to avoid pain and further trouble.
From getting out of bed to reading before you go to sleep, these are the dos and don’ts you need to know.
Your spinal discs fill with water overnight. This makes us taller first thing in the morning, but – according to physiotherapist Sammy Margo - also vulnerable to injury.
She said: “Moving from lying down to an upright sitting position and twisting at the waist to swing the legs out of bed can trigger back pain.”
Quickly reaching over to switch off the alarm is also a common cause of ‘wry’ neck -painful spasms.
Try this: Log roll out of bed. Sammy says: “This is just as it sounds – try rolling from your back onto your side, and then sliding your legs out of bed before sitting up.”
Because the bathroom sink usually juts out from the wall, most of us bend our heads forward while we brush our teeth, says Sammy. This puts huge strain on the neck.
Try this: Stand upright and look into the mirror above the sink to work on your brushing technique and your posture, suggests Sammy. “Use the time to practise your balance by standing on one leg for a minute, then the other. Then try a few heel raises to work your calves.”
Getting young children into a car is a notorious trigger for back pain. “The combination of lifting a heavy load out in front of you plus the twisting action to secure kids in a seat takes its toll on your spine,” said Sammy.
Twisting while loading shopping into a boot is another danger.
Try this: Hold your child or grandchild close to you and get as near as you can to the seat. Bend at the knees and hips – not the waist – when placing them into the seat and shift the effort to your hips, arms and abs rather than your back.
And as soon as your child is old enough, let them climb into the seat independently. Use the same rules when loading the boot.
Many of us are in too much of a hurry to take the time to set up a proper driving position. Also, many of us are guilty of slumping in the seat and hunching over the steering wheel, warns Sammy.
Try this: You should be able to reach the steering wheel yet still have a bend in your elbows, and it should be easy to depress all the pedals without lifting yourself from the seat. Use a rolled-up hand towel behind your lower back for additional support if you need it (many car seats don’t support the curve of your back).
“Make sure your head actually touches the head-rest and shift your bum to the back of the driver’s seat,” said Sammy.
“Now adjust your rear- view mirror so you have to sit upright to see clearly. Try to avoid twisting when getting out of the car. Turn your whole body towards the door, lower your feet to the ground and stand up.”
Hoisting a bag onto a shoulder or carrying it in one hand or in the crook of your arm causes asymmetrical stress, warns Sammy. It not only adds load to one side of the body but the muscles on the other side have to strain to give a counterbalance.
Try this: “Choose a rucksack type bag or carry loads across your body with a wide-strapped bag,” advises Sammy. And, rather than carrying one heavy shopping bag, divide the weight between two.
According to Sammy, bending your head over a tablet or phone strains the neck muscles. Studies show that for every inch your head is angled forward, 10lbs is added to its weight (and the average head weighs 12lbs). So, if you bend your head three inches that puts 42lbs of load on the neck – increasing the risk of injury.
Try this: “Make a conscious effort to sit upright,” advises Sammy.
“Place your tablet/laptop on a higher surface – and use a pillow or cushion to prop it up rather than using it flat to improve posture.” Buy a separate keyboard if you use a laptop frequently. Get up and walk about when chatting on a mobile. Never cradle the phone between the ear and shoulder while typing, as this contributes to neck stiffness.
“Housework is a great way to stay fit but never stand still and just push the vacuum back and forth,” says Sammy. “It’s vital to stabilise your core muscles so that, just like a crane, the central point is stable and solid.”
Try this: Try placing the handle against your hip and moving forwards and backwards with the machine whilst engaging your tummy muscles. Use an upright vacuum cleaner rather than a cylinder to avoid bending at the waist and, if it’s heavy, consider buying a lighter one.
Reading in the bath sounds relaxing but most tubs don’t allow you to lie and read comfortably. Your neck and shoulders will usually be at an unnatural angle. Likewise propping your head onto pillows at a 45 degree angle and raising arms to hold a book strains your muscles.
Try this: Listen to audio books in the bath and use several pillows staggered in steps and height to support the entire upper back in bed, suggests Sammy. Even better, try a wedge pillow.