Laugh your way through back pain, say experts


London: More than eight out of ten Brits have back problems, according to a new survey from the British Osteopathic Association.

The survey, released to coincide with BackCare Awareness Week (8-12 October) and the Back Show (London Olympia 6-7 October) reveals that 83% of all British adults suffer from some form of backache intheir lifetimes, yet despite our underlying fears about its seriousness, we often choose to ignore it.

The causes of these largely debilitating pains are simpler than we may realise. Surprisingly, in 85% of cases, the trigger for the discomfort is everyday, regular activity such as sitting down, driving or shopping. Other causes identified include: carrying children, sex and period pains but in some cases, the catalyst is often unknown.

It also appears to be a common misconception that the rougher and heavier
the activity, the more pain-prone our backs become. Whilst care should be taken to protect the back at all times, the results of the BOA’s investigation suggests that you are eight times more likely to put your back out when walking or running than playing rugby.

Most suffer in silence, with over 61% of all questioned adults either taking a
painkiller to ease the ache, or ignoring it or taking no action at all. Worryingly, only 8.7% of sufferers seek professional help and this, according to Danny Williams, Osteopath and BOA Council member, can be catastrophic.

“If nothing is done, problem areas could lead to osteoarthritis or a weakened area being more prone to future pain. This, in turn, will inevitably be more intense and require longer periods ofrehabilitation,” he says.

However, there are things that we can do in order to help prevent back

• Laughing is one of the best preventative forms of action that we can take. Stress fostered by a modern working environment can lead to the clenching of muscles and tension in the back area. Laughing provides a fantastic antidote to this as it is a great relaxant that promotes apositive, pain free attitude.

• Drinking water also helps as it keeps muscles supple and hydrated.

• Bedtime habits are also something to consider. According to Danny, mattresses should ideally be changed every 5-10 years, depending on their quality. When you lie on your bed and roll into the middle, you know it’s
all over!

Danny warns that popping a pill or turning a blind eye is not only counter-productive, but means that the individual experiences unnecessary suffering: ‘If people try to soldier on, the pain won’t go away. More often than not, with simple mechanical movements, an osteopath can relieve compression and pain with a few treatments, if that.’

He also spoke of a patient whose life had been marred for a five year period due to chronic back pain which was significantly reduced within a matter of visits. ‘In many cases, one treatment can be enough, but if the pain is more serious, such as disc problems, then rehabilitation may take longer.’ Danny adds that whatever the problem an osteopath will prescribe an appropriate course of treatment. ‘An osteopath will tailor exercises and stretches to each patient: what may work for one person might not for another. We can also help manage pain and not just provide a quick fix.’

But the main way our backs stay healthy is through movement. Muscles need oxygen to retain their flexibility. As Danny points out, ‘These days, the pressure of work has become one of the main causes of back pain due to the increased hours that people stay sat at their desk. When muscles stay in the same position for a length of time, they become fatigued, start to lack oxygen and ultimately cause ischemic muscle pain.’ The best thing to do in the office environment is to take ‘movement breaks’ – just getting up to go to the toilet or flicking the kettle on can help. As Danny adds: “Movement is life – why be a stagnant pond when you can be a flowing river?”

Osteopaths will be on hand at The Back Show (Stands 6), London Olympia, from 6-7 October to answer your back pain or osteopathic related questions.

The research was carried out amongst a nationally representative sample of 2,246 UK adults aged 16+between 14 August and 5 September this year.

About the British Osteopathic Association

The British Osteopathic Association is the professional association for osteopaths in the UK, acting as an independent representative body whilst promoting the highest standards of osteopathic education and research. Established in 1998 the BOA is committed to supporting, protecting and caring for its members and promoting opportunities for individual and professional development in osteopathic practice. For more information andto search for an osteopath, visit the website: