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How to look after your back

21 August 2020

Physical

Posted on: 21 August 2020

If you suffer from back pain, you’re not alone. Back pain is incredibly common and one of the biggest causes of work absences, accounting for more than 12 million days lost every year.

All sorts of workers are at risk of back injury, whether your job involves long hours behind the wheel, physical tasks like heavy lifting or even sat behind a desk most of the day.

When it comes to back pain, prevention is better than cure. However, if you suffer from persistent back pain, please see your GP.

Check you’re doing it right

Poor lifting technique or working in an awkward position puts you at risk of developing back pain. If your job involves heavy lifting, your employer should organise training on how to carry this out safely and put on regular refresher sessions.

Check out these safe lifting tips for more information.

Tips include:

  • Lift with a straight back and with the load close to your waist
  • Distribute the weight evenly and move smoothly to avoid injury
  • Know your limits. There's a difference between what people can lift and what they can lift safely.

Keep active

Immobility weakens muscles and range of movement. Even if your job is physically demanding, you may only be using the same muscles time after time, which can lead them to become overstrained.

Try low-impact exercise like walking, swimming, yoga and pilates to keep your body strong and flexible. Increasing your activity levels will also help keep your weight down, which reduces the strain on your spinal column and back muscles.

Muscle strengthening

Because your core supports your spine, strong abdominal muscles take the pressure off your back and help align your spine; so make sure these exercises form part of your normal routine. You may also find helpful dedicated exercises and stretches for back pain.

Check your posture

Hunching over our phones can lead to painful tension in the neck and back muscles. Check your posture when sitting, driving, and watching television – find out how to sit correctly here. Correcting your posture may feel awkward at first because your body has become so used to sitting and standing in a particular way, but stick with it and you’ll soon see results.

A supportive environment

You might be surprised by the everyday items which can exacerbate back pain. Check:

  • Do my shoes fit properly? Are they supportive enough to wear all day?

If your feet aren’t supported properly, then your knees, hips and spine have to take the strain.

  • When was the last time I had a new mattress?

If it’s saggy, it might be time to invest in a new one. Sleeping in a dip means your spine will be out of alignment for seven to eight hours a night, leading to discomfort in the morning.

  • Is my bag too heavy?

Holding a heavy bag on one shoulder throws the body off balance, giving you pain in the neck, shoulders and back. Lighten your load by removing things you don’t need, or consider switching to a rucksack so the weight is more evenly distributed.

Living with back pain can really affect our mental and physical health. Life’s too short to suffer in silence – try these tips to start with, but don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you need to.

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