Top Tips for back and joint care
- Move and stretch frequently throughout the day.
- Muscles, joints and nerves will all function better with movement, and your movements will become supple and well-coordinated, reducing your risk of injury. Yoga and Pilates are great ways to stretch – a little every day can make a huge difference.
- Start doing a regular activity. Good intentions need to be translated into action. It’s usually easier to maintain a structured activity like a class but if the best you can manage is to run a bit when you walk the dog, run up the stairs, jump up and down 100 times while the kettle boils, then at least you’ve made a start. Muscles will strengthen very quickly and that includes your heart muscle. Activity will also increase bone strength, reducing your risk of osteoporosis.
- Maintain a healthy body weight and nutritious diet. If you go off the rails one day, don’t panic – just start fresh as soon as you realise.
- Repetitive tasks can lead to injury. Take breaks, change position and vary the rhythm
- Stand up. Research shows that standing up instead of sitting down is better for your health and increases life expectancy. Think about conducting meetings and phone calls standing up, and consider investing in an adjustable desk. Maybe try standing to watch a big event on TV.
- Pace yourself when doing heavy work. When gardening, regularly take a few moments to stand up straight and look around to plan your next task.
- Car and coach journeys can be hard on joints. Try to move knees if you can to stretch them out. Adjust car seats, use cushions, have breaks, stretch and walk around.
- Watch children’s posture – encourage them not to carry bags on one shoulder, and find ways to reduce the weight they carry. Talk to them about using the lockers more at school.
- Looking down at screens can strain your neck. Find ways to support your device.
- Lifting awkwardly when rushed is often when injuries happen. Take a moment to lift carefully, bring the load in close to you and mentally prepare yourself. This will help to engage your core muscle support.
- Is your bed still right for you or is it getting old?
- Sleep is vital for repair of muscles bones and joints. Aim for at least 7 hours a night.
- Exposure to sunlight ensures vitamin D production which helps us absorb calcium. In winter months it is recommended we all take a vitamin D supplement to maintain adequate levels.
- Ensure adequate calcium intake to maintain strong bones. Calcium can be found in dairy, leafy greens, nuts, soya beans and tofu.
- Vitamin K2 will help calcium uptake into the bones and can be found in cheese, egg yolks and fermented soy.
- Magnesium supports bone health and may help with muscle cramping. Magnesium can be found in nuts, seeds, leafy greens, peas, beans and bananas.
- Give up smoking. Smoking causes reduced blood flow to the discs in your back, increasing your risk of disc degeneration.
- Alcohol can interfere with bone activity and calcium absorption, increasing your risk of osteoporosis.
Remember when starting to exercise.
- Don’t go mad! Begin slowly and build up. Your body and brain need time to adjust to the new activity.
- Warm up first, and then after the activity warm down and include stretching so the muscles can cool down in their lengthened position.
- Avoid dehydration when exercising heavily.
- Frequency of activity is important. One long session per week is less effective than a little every day, and it’s worth including a range of activities. Over-training can create problems so being aware of how your body is responding is valuable.
If there is any possibility of a fracture you need to get an X-ray and receive appropriate treatment.
For the first 24-48 hours after a joint sprain or strain, apply a cold pack to the area for 10 minutes, every hour. Keep warm between times. Use a bandage to compress the tissues, without being so tight it interferes with blood flow. Elevate and rest.
Very gentle movement through the affected joint may help to start the healing process.
After this time, you need to MOVE. Start to use the affected joint without weight or load bearing initially – maybe go to the pool and walk in the water. Return to normal activity as quickly as you feel able to and use a variety of cross training options. It is important that muscles and joints move again normally as soon as possible, as this promotes healing.
Use compression only if it feels helpful.
- Keep gardening tools sharp to reduce the effort required to use them.
- Never hook your phone between ear and shoulder and be aware that holding your phone to your ear will also affect your neck, shoulder, elbow and hand, so try to be hands-free when you can.
- Avoid reaching round for something on the back seat.
- Holiday sun loungers are a menace for your back.
- When swimming, use a variety of strokes to avoid straining your neck.