Back Care

We've got your back.

Back pain is very common, with around 80% of people experiencing back pain at some point in their life. It should generally not be a cause for concern, but can interfere with daily activities.

The webinar below was created by Remedy Physio Ltd in partnership with Juice.  It explores the definition of lower back pain and how it can be prevented and treated.

University of Sheffield staff can access a free 15-minute physiotherapy session with Remedy Physio by booking an appointment via the Juice Platform. If you wish to continue your treatments, Remedy Physio offer discounted rates to all TUOS staff.

We are also offering a free Back Care Seminar on 21st November, hosted by qualified Sport Sheffield Physiotherapist, Sharon Rawlinson. Sharon will share her tips and advice on maintaining a healthy back, as well as demonstrating some simple exercises you can do at home or at work to alleviate back pain.  To book on to the session please click here.

What causes back pain?

Most back pain comes from the soft tissues of the spine such as the ligaments, muscles and joints. Usually episodes of back pain don’t have an identifiable cause, although over a period of time the soft tissues can be put under strain by:

  • Prolonged sitting or standing
  • Poor posture
  • Prolonged bending
  • Repetitive movements, in particular lifting.

How can I prevent back pain?

Keep Active

Regular exercise such as walking or swimming helps to maintain back suppleness and strength. Why not join our Juice Walking Group or try a free Swimming session before work?

Avoid sitting for prolonged periods

If your role involves sitting, try to vary your activities as much as possible to give you the opportunity to change position and move around. Walking to the printer or going to make a drink can give you the opportunity to stretch and change your position.

While sitting, make sure that your back is properly supported, especially in the lower curve of your spine. Try to sit with your knees and hips at a 90 degree angle and place your feet on the floor or on a suitable footrest if they do not reach the floor.

Balance your weight evenly

If standing for prolonged periods of time, try to relieve the strain on your back by distributing your weight evenly on both feet. This NHS Posture Guide provides tips to help alleviate muscle tension caused by poor sitting and standing habits.

Adjust your sleeping position

Try to lie on your back or your side, this will help to keep the spine straight. Choosing a pillow that supports the neck rather than the head can also help to prevent neck pain. It is important to make sure your mattress protects you properly, i.e. it is not too soft or firm.  Mattresses should be replaced every 8 years.

Check your workstation

All staff who use display screen equipment should complete the online DSE assessment. The DSE online training course is an important part of staff workplace Health and Safety training, and it should take approximately 20 minutes to complete. If an issue or problem is identified upon completion of the DSE assessment, the member of staff will need to notify their line manager and/or departmental DSE assessor who will carry out a workstation assessment and will identify and implement and changes/adaptions to the workstation.

For more information, please visit the Work Station Assessments Procedure webpage.

What can I do if I develop back pain?

If you begin to feel strain or discomfort, and if you are able to do so, lie on your back and place a small pillow under your head and under your knees to flatten your back. Rest for 30 minutes before resuming activity.

If you are suffering from pain and stiffness, it is important not to become inactive. You should continue with your normal activities, but ease off those that are more strenuous and physically demanding. Some people find that taking a hot bath or placing a hot water bottle on the affected area can help to relieve the pain. It may also be helpful to alternate between hot and cold compressions, by placing a hot water bottle on the affected area for 5 minutes before switching to an ice pack or bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel, repeating until the pain is alleviated.

Lower back pain exercises

The NHS recommends some simple exercises and stretches you can do at home to help ease lower back pain, whilst improving strength and flexibility. You should aim to do these activities daily, alongside other gentle activities such as yoga, walking or swimming.

Bottom to heels stretch

Start position: Kneel on all fours, with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders. Try to keep your back and neck fairly straight, and don't lock your elbows.

Action: Slowly move your bottom backward towards your heels. Hold the stretch for one deep breath and return to the starting position.

Repeat 8 to 10 times.

Tips:

  • avoid going right back onto your heels if you have a knee problem
  • ensure correct positioning with the help of a mirror
  • only stretch as far as feels comfortable

Stretch 1

Knee rolls

Start position: Lie on your back. Place a small flat cushion or book under your head. Keep your knees bent and together. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked in.

Action: Roll your knees to one side, keeping both shoulders on the floor. Hold the stretch for one deep breath and return to the starting position.

Repeat 8 to 10 times, alternating sides.

Tips:

  • only move as far as feels comfortable
  • place a pillow between your knees for comfort

Stretch 2

Back extensions

Start position: Lie on your front and rest on your forearms, with your elbows bent at your sides. Look towards the floor and keep your neck straight.

Action: Keeping your neck straight, arch your back up by pushing down on your hands. You should feel a gentle stretch in the stomach muscles. Breathe and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Return to the starting position.

Repeat 8 to 10 times.

Tips:

  • don't bend your neck backwards
  • keep your hips on the floor

Stretch 3

Deep abdominal strengthening

Start position: Lie on your back. Place a small, flat cushion or book under your head. Bend your knees, keeping your feet straight and hip-width apart. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked in.

Action: As you breathe out, gently tense the muscles in your pelvis and lower tummy so they're pulled up towards your chest. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths and relax.

Repeat 5 times.

Tips:

  • this is a slow, gentle exercise – don't try to tense your muscles too quickly or too hard
  • make sure you don't tense up through the neck, shoulders or legs

Stretch 4

Pelvic tilts

Start position: Lie on your back. Place a small, flat cushion or book under your head. Bend your knees, keeping your feet straight and hip-width apart. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked in.

Action: Gently flatten your lower back into the floor and tense your stomach muscles. Now tilt your pelvis towards your heels until you feel a gentle arch in your lower back and return to the starting position.

Repeat 10 to 15 times, tilting your pelvis back and forth in a slow rocking motion.

Tips:

  • don't press down through your neck, shoulders or feet
  • place one hand on your stomach and the other under your lower back – if you're doing the exercise correctly, you should feel the muscles working in these areas

Stretch 5

Please note that if symptoms persist, you should seek advice from your General Practitioner (GP).