Like many other speech & language therapists, teachers, classroom assistants and anyone who works with little people, I have had my fair share of back problems. Shortly before I started Blethers, I had my worst ever attack of back pain in the form of a bulging disc and the accompanying sciatica. As anyone who has had the same will tell you, the pain is excruciating, relentless and utterly debilitating. The good news is that it does usually get better. I’m back to normal now, but it takes months and, for some people, years to feel normal again. I have written this post because I want to help you avoid the nightmare that is a bulging disc if I can!
We often spend our days working at low tables, sitting on chairs that are designed for children, working on the floor and humpfing heavy bags of files/resources around. This will hurt you eventually! The good news is, there are a couple of really simple things you can do to help yourself avoid destroying your back!
If you work for an organisation, you will have mandatory manual handling training. Yes, no-one likes having to make space in their diary to do this but it is important. Get along to it and make sure you get information about your back, how it works and how to avoid hurting it. What you’ll learn applies to all of your life, not just work. You will also have an occupational health department and it’s worth getting their advice on setting up your computer and desk space in the best possible way. If you don’t work for an organisation, do a bit of research or speak to a consultant to find out about these things.
Think out of the box about low seating options. When I was furnishing the mobile therapy room, I wanted some options that would help me maintain a good posture at a low table or when working on the floor. I have ended up with a Bhuddist prayer stool! It’s basically a little kneeling stool which puts you in a really good posture and takes the stress of kneeling off your knees. These sorts of stool are available from all sorts of places but mine came from Blue Banyan – it was inexpensive and it’s very well made.
I’d also recommend investing in wheelie case or a good backpack to carry your stuff around in if you’re out and about a lot. You’ll still have to be careful lifting it in and out of your car and carrying it up stairs but it will take a lot of strain of your poor, abused back. Also, don’t be afraid to do 2 trips to your car if you need to. I know we’re all busy and don’t want to waste time but if you hurt your back you could end up in extreme pain and off work for months. It’s worth taking those extra 5 or 10 minutes!
Make a pre-emptive strike and strengthen your back and core by getting along to a pilates, yoga or Swiss Ball class. If your back & core are strong, you’re less likely to get injured in the first place and, if you do, you’ll recover more quickly. As an added bonus, you’ll meet new people at your classes and have a bit of fun while you keep your back in good shape!
Finally, if you do get twinges in your back, don’t delay and make excuses, GO AND SEE A PHYSIOTHERAPIST STRAIGHT AWAY! There are many physios out there and do bear in mind that you may need to see 2 or 3 before you find one that can help you. Personally, I can recommend the services of Taylor Physiotherapy for proactive and effective treatment.
Look after your back and it will look after you!