Protect Your Spinal Health This Summer With Expert Advice from Mater Private Network
As the last few weeks have demonstrated, summer in Ireland can be unpredictable with sunshine, rain showers, humidity and blustery weather all par for the course – sometimes in the same day! After a torrid few weeks, however, better days are on the horizon with sunshine promised, meaning you can get back to enjoying your favourite summer pastimes, including traveling, hiking, gardening or simply relaxing in the sunshine.
With greater physical exertion, however, comes the risk of back pain or injury. Indeed, the most common back pain experienced by adults in Ireland is lower back pain, often caused by muscle, joint or ligament strain. That’s why it is important for adults to be proactive when it comes to looking after their spinal health.
Mater Private Network is the leader in spine care in Ireland. With a multidisciplinary team of experts, Mater Private delivers holistic solutions for back pain and injury across its network here in Ireland, meaning they are uniquely well positioned to offer advice on how you can enjoy your favourite activities and live life to the fullest this summer.
With that in mind, Mater Private Network experts, Mr. Deb Roy MRCS(Ed) FRCS (Neurosurgery) - Spinal Surgeon with Mater Private Network - and Mumi Hossain - Physiotherapist with Mater Private Network - share their top tips on how to protect your spine, prevent injury and treat existing pain before it’s too late.
Summer is the optimum time to take care of the garden or engage in DIY. However, these activities can cause back strain if you’re not careful. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to avoid injury.
Mr. Deb Roy advises adults to warm up before gardening. Invest in ergonomic gardening tools that will reduce the need to bend and lean forward, thereby reducing your risk of back pain. If bending forward, remember to bend from the knee and not the waist, and always ask for help if lifting heavy objects.
Mumi Hossain adds: “Maintaining sustained postures for a long period of time, such as stooping whilst weeding, can increase lower back stiffness and discomfort. To prevent this, remember to take micro-breaks while gardening as well as changing your posture and pacing your activity. For example, break up the weeding into three half-hour blocks with short breaks in between instead of weeding non-stop for 90 minutes.”
Embarking on a staycation this summer? Preparing for a cross-country road trip? Driving long distances and sitting for a prolonged period of time can cause stiffness and discomfort. Our experts say there are a number of simple, practical things you can do to steer clear of back pain before you head for the open road.
Mr. Deb Roy says: “Keep the seat in a comfortable position, take frequent breaks and aim not to drive continuously for more than 45 minutes at a time.”
Mumi Hossain adds: “There are a couple of simple steps you can take to minimise back pain which may occur with driving long distances. The first thing you can do is an exercise called pelvic tilting which involves tilting your pelvis forwards and backwards – this mobilizes the lower segments of your spine which are prone to stiffness. Try to break up your car journey. Stop at the petrol station, get out of your car and go for a very short walk. If you can’t do that, get out of your car and do some squats! Any movement is good movement, your back wants a variety of positions.”
Sunny days and longer evenings mean many of us are more inclined to go hiking, swimming, cycling, kayaking or golfing. Outdoor exercise is great for your health and wellbeing. If you are not used to it, however, a sudden uptick in physical activity can have unwanted results. How can you take part in sports and outdoor exercise without sustaining back injury?
Mumi Hossain says: “Getting outside for cycling, golf, tennis or hiking is a fantastic exercise for your back. If you are taking up this activity for the first time or doing it for extended periods of time – consider adding some mobility exercises to your routine to assist with range of motion and prevent muscle tightness, as well as strength and conditioning exercises which will help you to perform the activity for longer.”
Hossain emphasises the importance of undertaking regular physical activity to maintain good spinal health. This can be as simple as going for a good walk every day: “We all need to walk more! 10,000 steps is a great number to work towards but not absolutely necessary. Consistency is key as well as moving often. All exercise is good exercise whether that’s yoga, Pilates, CrossFit, swimming or making sure you take the stairs versus the lift. Incorporating a strengthening programme into your exercise routine is crucial, research shows – weight based training is imperative for longevity.”
One of the best parts of summer is getting to travel and go away on holidays. However, this can often involve rushing around airports while carrying luggage weighing in excess of 20-30kg, which is physically demanding and can lead to strain. Prepare in advance by supplementing daily physical activity with additional exercises.
Mumi Hossain says: “If you are going on holidays and carrying heavy luggage it can feel very strenuous. Think about adding strengthening exercises to your exercise regime to assist with these situations. Strengthening exercises could include carrying two bags of groceries and walking – it’s all great exercise.”
Health and wellbeing
Good physical health begins from within. Eating healthily and ensuring you stay hydrated can prevent wear and tear. What healthy habits should you consider incorporating into your everyday routine?
Mr. Deb Roy says: “Aim to drink at least 2.5 litres of water every day. Consume seasonal fruits which are rich in minerals, vitamins and fibres, and eat a balanced diet. A good rule of thumb is to aim to get 50% from carbohydrates, 30% from fat and 20% from protein. If you are a smoker, please consider quitting.”
In the event you do find yourself suffering from back pain, don’t panic.
Mumi Hossain says: “90% of back pain is mechanical. That means it is not serious and will not need surgical intervention. The most important step to take is movement. Remember: motion is lotion. Try to stay active and do an activity that you find comfortable.”
If you have persistent back pain that is not resolving itself, don’t ignore it. Visit your GP, book an appointment with a physiotherapist, or visit Mater Private Emergency Department to seek a specialist opinion with MRI scan, if required.