Protecting your back

At work

While at work, don’t sit longer for 45 minutes at a time. When your body is in a position for more than 45 minutes, your brain recognises it as a position to hold and can cause some of your muscles to shorten. If that posture becomes locked, it can make your whole body shift into a crooked position once you’re standing. 

Make sure you sit comfortably with your back supported in the base of your chair, with your head directly over your body – if you sit with your head forward, it can add strain to your neck and back. 


Try cutting down on some of the habits that can aggravate your stress. Caffeine and nicotine can have the effect of creating a sense of anxiety even when you aren’t worried about anything. 


Make sure you lift close to your body with your feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees and keep your back straight and lift with your legs – not your back. It’s always recommended to get help from someone else so you’re not straining your body.


Up to 20 percent of all sports-related injuries involve the lower back or neck, with weekend sports lovers, who might be couch potatoes the rest of the week, especially vulnerable. 

Certain sports can further aggravate your back injuries, for example the constant mechanics of a golf swing puts stress and torque on the rotation of your back, while fast bowlers in cricket have to take particular care to protect their back. Many sports encourage weight training, which of itself can stress the back.

Before taking to the field or the court, there are some key things you must do to first strengthen your back to prevent further injury. 

Stretch: It’s important to warm up before any type of exercise as this will help prevent any injury on the field. Any type of light cardio is great to warm up your muscles followed by stretching. Dr Cassandra Fairest recommends Straighten Up New Zealand is an easy and enjoyable every day programme to improve spinal health and posture. It takes just three minutes a day and can help correct and prevent spinal issues just like brushing your teeth helps your oral health. 

The SUNZ exercises will help improve posture, stabilise core muscle groups, enhance health and prevent spinal disability. For more information visit their website

Strengthen your core: By strengthening your core you can reduce damage caused by repetitive motions such as golf or tennis swings. Stomach crunches and pilates exercises are great at strengthening the muscles that protect your spine. This is an important step in your exercise routine; even as you start to build up muscles, it’s important to keep strengthening. A trainer can help design the best workout plan to ensure you continue to strengthen your core. 

Swim: Swimming helps condition your core and the muscles that support your back. It’s a very low impact environment for getting your heart rate up, without jarring the joints and spine. Aqua aerobics, water walking and swim laps are ideal to build up your muscle strength and prevent any injuries. 

Talk to your doctor: Ensure you talk to your doctor about whether you can and should be playing sport with your back injury as it could potentially cause more damage to your muscles. 
If you are unsure about your suitability to exercise, please be sure to consult a health professional such as your physiotherapist or general practitioner.

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