Smorgasbord A-Z of Common Conditions – Backache -A major cause of disability

smorgasbord A - Z

To give you an idea of how common backache is around the world; it is estimated that nearly 10% of the global population will experience either acute (one off or occasional event with recovery) or chronic backache (constant and disabling).  There are a number of proven factors such as weight, height, age and of course occupational posture but generally the causes of lower back pain in particular are very hard to diagnose.

Back pain is one of the leading causes of disability but it also results in one of the biggest financial burdens on health services and industry around the world. An estimated 25% of all sick leave is the result of back problems with billions of pounds and dollars in medical costs.

In a paper published by the World Health Organisation it mentions the number of work days lost in a year due to back problems in the UK alone as over 100 million.  

Click to access Ch6_24LBP.pdf

Most people when experiencing lower back pain will reach for over the counter pain-killers.  Whilst these may be effective in the short-term, they only mask the symptoms and do not address the cause of the back pain. If it is chronic, it becomes very easy to become dependent on the tablets, and very likely that the body will develop a tolerance. The nervous system, particularly the brain and spinal cord become less able to interpret the actual levels of pain you are experiencing requiring increasingly more medication over time.

This results in most people taking more pills that is good for the body. Apart from the risk of addiction, it can seriously damage your endocrine system (hormones) and this can impact many functions within in the body reliant on hormones for health. One condition in particular, Osteoporosis is already a risk factor for women following menopause, but with a consistent use of painkillers the impact on bone health can be very severe.

Unfortunately, since the cause of back pain can be difficult to diagnose, it is likely that your doctor is simply going to move your medications to the next level to opiods such as Tramadol which are highly addictive if used long-term.  I have experience of this with my mother who had chronic hip pain and in her late 80s and early 90s was prescribed Tramadol. Very difficult for the person suffering the pain and those who care for them.

Where to start.

Most back pain is the result of posture issues due to your own physical condition or your work environment.

I was a tall child and am nearly 6 foot in height and it was very easy to assume a slouching posture when around others who were shorter. Thankfully I spent a few years studying ballet which taught me to both stand and walk correctly. But I have counselled many middle-aged men and women who spent their teen years in a slouch and have developed lower back problems as a result.

Our weight makes a difference as it throws your posture out of line very easily. If you pick up a sack of potatoes that weighs 5kilo, and hold with both arms in front of you and walk around for ten minutes, you will find exacly what being overweight does for your lower back. Just ask any pregnant mum to be! Add another 50lbs or so and you are going to end up with chronic back problems as you get older.

How old is your mattress?  As you sink into its soft embrace each night and toss and turn throughout the night is it any wonder that you wake in the morning and find it difficult to bend to get into your trousers!  It is recommended that you change your mattress every seven years and choose one that supports your body neutrally from shoulders, buttocks, heels but without being too hard. If you suffer from lower back pain it is generally recommended that you use a middle range support mattress and not one that is too hard.. This can result in pressure points along the body.

Do your pillows support your neck adequately during sleep or are you using too few or too many?

Check all your postions when driving. You should be leaning slightly forward and your seat should be positioned so that your knees are level with your hips or slightly higher. Always stop and stretch regularly when on a long journey.

Lifting heavy objects either as a one off or consistently as part of your work environment is a leading cause of back problems. Firstly, don’t lift heavy objects and carry them if your can avoid it as it will not only damage your back but also your hips and knees. If you must lift any object you need to bend at the knees to ensure your legs are producing the lift not your lower back.


Sitting at a desk ( and if you are reading this, you are) is one of the leading causes of neck and back pain… not to mention eye strain!   You may find this post very useful in finding the best posture for your own environment.

What can be helpful.

I would definitely recommend exercise and I have some flexibility exercises from my book Turning Back the Clock that you may find useful. Do not be overly ambitious, just begin very slowly and build up strength and flexibility over time. Take into account the level of pain that you are already experiencing and adapt the exercises as needed.

We can maintain our flexibility and actually improve it as we get older. The main reason we get stiff as we age and develop back pain is because we stop moving our bodies into different positions. The body is designed to move, not stay sitting, or slouching, the majority of the time!

Three simple exercises to increase flexibility and help prevent backache

Number One: Stand with hands by your side and as you inhale your breath, raise your arms slowly until they are above your head in a straight line with the rest of your body. At the same time as you raise your arms also lift your heels to stretch the whole body upwards, whilst on tip toe. When you exhale lower the arms slowly and the heels back to the floor it is also a balance exercise so it helps develops concentration and focus. Keep your eyes fixed on a point during the exercise. Repeat 7/8 times.

Number Two: It is important not to do this exercise if you have a chronic back problem. But it may help prevent it developing. Also only do a gentle arch to start with and increase the height over a period of weeks.

Go onto all fours. Hands placed on the floor under the shoulders and your knees under the hips. Imagine what a cat looks like when it gets up to stretch after napping. It arches its back up into the air.

Now with the back flat, exhale and arch the spine up, dropping your head into a relaxed position. Your abdomen is drawn up to support the spine in the arched position. Pause to feel the stretch. Inhale slowly flattening the back again. Pause. Exhale; slowly arch the spine up again etc. Always working slowly. Repeat at least 8 times.

Number Three: This posture is universally recognised as one of the best to help lower back pain but again make sure that you do not attempt if you are very sore. Take it gently over a period of time.

Lie down on your back. Inhale taking your arms back above your head, exhale bringing the right knee to your chest with your hands around it, to draw it in closer. Inhale as you lower your arms back down to your side and your leg back on the ground. Exhale bringing the left knee up with hands on it…and continue 8 times to each knee. Then 8 more times with both knees coming to chest together.

Then relax and lie flat for several minutes to appreciate what you have done and enjoy the benefits of the movements and deep breathing.

Other forms of exercise. When you reach a level of fitness that you are comfortable with then take to another level. For some Yoga, Tai chi are wonderful for keeping the body supple and I find that swimming strengthens my muscles and helps keep my body in alignment.

What about Nutrition and alternative therapies.

There are some natural inflammatories that you can include in your diet and also some herbs that can also help. Feverfew, Devil’s Claw and Ginger are useful herbs that help reduce inflammation and you may find that including Pineapple every day while you are suffering from backache will help. Pineapple contains an inflammatory property called bromelain which not only helps break down protein we eat but can reduce pain and swelling as a result of rheumatism or strains.

I use White Tiger Balm which is used extensively in Chinese medicine.. A small pot goes a long way and I have used for over twenty years. The balm contains aromatic oils such as camphor, peppermint and cloves and you can rub well into joint or area of the back that is painful.

Remember that this is not intended to replace the advice that you are given by your doctor or chiropractor.. However, prevention of backache is not only very beneficial for us personally but might reduce the billions of dollars and pounds burden on industry and our health services.

Thank you for stopping by today and your feedback is always welcome.  Sally


31 thoughts on “Smorgasbord A-Z of Common Conditions – Backache -A major cause of disability

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord A-Z of Common Conditions – Backache -A major cause of disability | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. I worked in a pain medicine department for 10 years. The advice of the consultants there was to buy a memory foam mattress and also practise Pilates for at least 20 minutes every day. I do both of these, and it has made the world of difference. A physiotherapist also told me to clench the stomach muscles every time I lift something or for instance stand up, put on trousers or stoop over. It works and all helps to keep my back pain under control.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Smorgasbord A-Z of Common Conditions – Backache -A major cause of disability | Annette Rochelle Aben

  4. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Andrea Bocelli – Seal Rescue Ireland and Amazing Authors | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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