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Back pain affects four out of five of us at some point in our lives, but why is it so common and what causes it? Here's the top three reasons why from Pro-Fit Physiotherapy...

1. You sit down too much

The number one cause of back pain is gradual onset caused by poor posture and living a sedentary lifestyle.

The average working adult in the UK occupies a seated position for more than seven hours per day... How long are you sitting down for?

If you add up the amount of time you spend in the car, at your desk at work and sitting on the sofa watching TV, you can quickly see how the hours begin to wrack up.

If you multiply this by five days per week, 52 weeks of the year, this means the average person spends 1,800 hours per year in a seated position.

2. You are overweight or have poor digestion

Over 70% of the UK population is now considered overweight or obese, a stat which has more than trebled in the last 30 years. On current estimates, more than half the population will be obese by 2050.

But how does this cause back pain?

Have you ever tried carrying a 15kg rucksack on your back all day? Well, this is exactly what you’re doing if you’re two stones overweight.

If you were to try it, you’d quickly see how your posture changes to account for the extra weight and the strain this puts through your lower back, hips and knees.

However, it’s not just extra weight you need to be cautious of when it comes to managing back pain – it’s also the foods you eat and the effect this can have on your joints.

The gastrointestinal system (or stomach, liver and intestines) sits very close to the spine in the abdominal cavity. If you have excess wind caused by undigested food particles or inflammation due to food intolerances, this extra pressure will exert on your lower back, contributing or causing back pain.

3. You aren’t holding yourself properly – in or out of the gym!

Poor posture whilst exercising or simply walking around could be the cause of your back or neck pain.

The term posture is used to describe how your body is positioned when you're sitting, standing or lying down.

Good posture is important for many reasons, not least by placing your body in an alignment where the stress on supporting ligaments, joints and muscles is kept to a minimum, but poor posture is often seen to be the pre-cursor to many of the aches, pains and injuries that plague our everyday lives.

Improving your posture encourages the correct alignment of your joints, where stress can be evenly distributed to the intended muscles and ligaments.

Getting this right significantly decreases the amount of wear and tear your joints have to cope with, therefore minimising the risk of joint discomfort and inevitable degeneration.

So what can you do about it?

Physiotherapy and Personal Training have three top tips to minimise lower back pain:

1. Get moving 

Set yourself a daily target, which is realistic for you to achieve, to increase your daily activity levels. Whether this be introducing a 10-minute walk at lunch time, using the stairs wherever possible or parking that bit further away from the supermarket.

These daily activities will make a big difference to your activity levels, which in turn will help reduce joint stress caused by maintaining static postures for prolonged periods of time.

2. Lose weight and/or drink more water

If you are overweight or need to improve your general health – have a good look at your diet. Most of us know what to do, it’s just a matter of getting on and doing it.

Start to introduce more vegetables, eat three good meals per day and replace sugary junk food snacks with pure wholefoods such as fruit and nuts.

If weight isn’t your problem, then maybe it’s water intake. Over 90% of all of our body’s cells are made from water. If you are dehydrated this can dramatically affect the structure of your tissues, so get yourself hydrated today and see how you have more energy, better concentration, balance and co-ordination.

3. Get your posture assessed and make sure you're exercising right in the gym

Why not book in for a posture and movement assessment to gain the tools to fix your postural issues?

Most of the time we aren’t aware of how we’re holding ourselves and sometimes we need the view point of an expert to point this out and let us know what to do about it.

How about getting yourself a movement and posture assessment from Physiotherapy? We have clinics at the Preston and Chester branches of Total Fitness and you might have seen us around your club when visiting.

We’re also happy to help with any of your other injuries/health issues and will always do our best to help or recommend who it is you need to talk to get the best outcome.