Millions suffer the debilitating condition



Banish the back pain:

Back pain is the second most common reason for absence from work in the UK alone and currently results in about 9.3 million lost working days per year. Today more than 2.5 million people regularly experience the condition.

Most back pain is not serious at all and the vast majority of cases will improve within two days to two weeks. It is worth knowing that about half of all people who experience an episode will have another one within two years.

However it can be avoided if you take the correct actions and respect your back.

Improve your posture
Stand in front of a mirror without trying to alter your posture, just adopt your usual pose.

Are both sides of your body symmetrical? Are your ears at the same level? Are your shoulders level? Are your hips at the same level? Are your knees pointing directly straight ahead?

Having awareness of your posture and in what way it seems out of balance is important. If you work at it steadily, you will reap the rewards and have a stronger back that causes you fewer problems.

Take light exercise
Many people with back problems have a tendency to wrap themselves in cotton wool and never risk hurting their back again. This is counter-productive since the muscles have to be used or the back pain will worsen. If you don't use them they get weaker.

So vacuuming the house, gardening, sweeping, gentle digging and mowing the lawn are all good for the back. What I would emphasise is that you should aim to be two-sided. Don't get into a one-sided sweeping or digging pattern. Keep changing sides.

Stop smoking
If you have a back pain problem which keeps flaring up, you ought to examine your lifestyle and consider whether there are certain things you do that are contributing to the flare-ups.

For instance researchers found that those who smoked were twice as likely to report pain as those who did not smoke.

It is possible that smoking is actually involved in the mechanism of pain perceptions. It also seems possible that it magnifies the problem by reducing the body's ability to repair itself.

Eat right
Alcohol is a depressant not a stimulant and as well as affecting emotions it can allow pain signals to be perceived more readily. Pain is felt more often and more regularly than it would be by someone who does not drink heavily.

Being overweight also predisposes you to back pain. Extra weight throws a strain on the vertebrae, the ligaments and the muscles of the trunk.

Junk food also promotes inflammation. Diets high in sugar have also been associated with increased inflammation.

Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, are known to reduce inflammation.

Three spices, turmeric, ginger and capsaicin (found in chillies) have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may help if used regularly. (Dr Keith Souter/The Daily Express)

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