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From 8 – 12 October 2012 it’s National Backcare Awareness Week, and this year’s focus is on ‘Builder’s Back Pain’. The building industry has a very high record of work related injuries and back pain. This is not unusual when you take into consideration the nature of the work but there are measures to minimise the risk of back pain and prevent problems from arising in the future.

It is not just professional builders who need to take care of their backs:  if you are doing any kind of DIY, gardening or heavy lifting you need to look after yourself. So here is a list of 5 top tips to prevent an old injury from relapsing, developing an injury in the first place and managing a current problem.

1.       In the same way that your heart, lungs and brain need to be nurtured, so does your spine. Overall health is key here and it is these 5 health behaviours that count:

  • Diet
  • Weight
  • Exercise
  • Smoking
  • Drinking

Poor diet and carrying a little extra weight, especially in men, puts stress across the spine both mechanically and metabolically. Whilst most people in the building trade would count their job as exercise, it represents only one facet. Exercise should not only include cardio and resistance training but balance, flexibility and core training as well. Lastly, either give up cigarettes and limit alcohol intake to government recommended standards or face premature aging both in appearance and health.

2.       Don’t push it.

Hard graft has long been builders’ work ethic but there comes a point when pushing yourself ever harder is detrimental to your health. When you get tired, your body starts to ration the degree of control it can exert whilst coordinating a set task. Therefore the more tired you are, the more you are likely to injure your spine.  At Freedom Clinics, we see a lot of really big body builders who wanted to do that last lift and failed halfway through as their back went.

Make sure you pace yourself, don’t be rushed and don’t bow to pressure to push your body past its limits because you will have to live with the consequences, not your foreman.

3.       Invest in an ice pack and get a decent wheat bag.

If you already have a history of back pain, (whether it is a constant source of pain or something that leaves you bed bound three or four times a year), managing not just the pain but the process is key. Heat should be used across the muscles that are locked in a spasm. Heat works by allowing the muscles to relax and the blood to penetrate the painful area. Ice is used to bring inflammation under control. It should be placed on the painful area for no more than ten minutes at a time, every hour, no less than three times a day. This process increases local blood turnover and washes away the painful swelling in the area.

4.       Get a bit of support and keep on moving.

Lumbar supports have been around for centuries and help muscles to hold up the spine. As long as you stay mobile, supports will enable you to get on with the task at hand. However, too much reliance on supports weakens spinal muscles, making the problem worse in the long term.

Stop using supports as soon as you can and keep muscles as active as possible to speed up the healing process.

5.       Finally, get yourself a mechanic.

If I had a priceless piece of machinery that would guarantee me a living for the rest of my life, then I would look after it. Your body is that machine and needs to be looked after accordingly. Do not wait for it to break down, get it looked at. You take your car to be serviced every so often, so why shouldn’t you do the same for your body? Book an appointment with a chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist and make the time to invest in your kit. A few quid spent in the here and now will pay off with a more productive and injury free career.

These tips do not just apply to builders, they apply to us all. If you suffer from the slightest niggle or frequent crippling pain, then your body is trying to tell you something… Get it sorted. Book a free back pain assessment with one of our specialists by calling 0844 327 4000.