5 ways to care for your back

26 August 2017 by
First published: 27 October 2015

Back care – Here are 5 great ways to care for your back

These days back care is increasingly important. We’re all guilty of spending hours slouching over a computer. In fact, you’re probably doing so right now. With so much of life centred around using a computer, and so many of us having desk-based jobs, many people spend at least eight hours a day sat down. Plus, increased work stress sometimes makes regular exercise tricky to fit in, so it’s no wonder people are struggling with back problems and bad posture.

We spoke to Lynne Robinson, founder of Body Control Pilates  and author of The Body Control Pilates Back book, to learn five simple back care tips to keep your back happy and healthy.

How to care for your back?

1. Stand tall, sit tall, walk tall


This is something we’ve heard so many times before, but it is often the thing we are all guilty of not doing. But standing, sitting and walking tall is such an easy step to having a happier back and all-round better back care. ‘Just standing tall works the deep postural muscles, which hold you up against gravity,’ says Lynne. ‘When you slouch, not only does it look awful, but also it puts pressure on the spine and reduces the efficiency of your breathing and the ability of your core muscles to support the spine. Remember to lengthen up through the crown of your head and you’ll look taller and slimmer.’ As an added plus, sitting tall also burns twice as many calories compared with slumping or slouching. Win, win!

2.Keep your spine mobile


It sounds pretty obvious, but if you’re having troubles with your back, make sure you’re keeping it moving and flexible with a range of exercises. ‘An inflexible spine is really ageing,’ says Lynne. ‘Exercises such as waist twists can be done seated or standing anywhere and it helps to ease out many unwanted kinks. It also works the muscles that define your waist.’

3.Learn to breathe efficiently

Breathing is so important to us, and not just in the keeping-you-alive way it’s also vital for good back care. Effective breathing helps reduce stress, instigate better posture and increase your stamina. ‘Most of us breathe far too shallowly and miss out on all the wonderful benefits that more effective breathing brings,’ says Lynne. ‘For a quick reminder of good breathing during the day, try sitting tall and place your hands on your ribs. As you breathe in, focus on the back and sides of your ribs expanding. Breathe out completely, feel your ribcage closing but don’t lose your height, stay tall. Repeat a few times and feel yourself growing calmer and your mind clearer.’

4.Keep your core muscles ‘fit for purpose’


Your core muscles are extremely important when it comes to back care – they’re vital in protecting your spinal cord. ‘Your deep core muscles wrap around your trunk like a natural girdle, supporting your spine like a built-in corset,’ Lynne explains.

Sometimes, if these muscles are injured or poorly conditioned, they may not be as effective as they should be and regular exercises such as Pilates should be done to maintain their strength. Lynne suggests: ‘To locate your core muscles, sit tall, breathe in and as you breathe out gently engage your pelvic floor muscles and draw them up inside, you should feel your abdomen hollow. Hold this internal zip for a few seconds breathing wide as above. Now you’ve found them you can use them when and if you need to. Don’t be tempted to ‘hold’ them in all the time though, just engage them as required to help control your alignment and movements.’

5.When you exercise, do first what you should and then what you would 

Another way to keep your back happy is to be mindful of your back when at the gym. As Lynne explains: ‘We all tend to choose the exercises we like, but they might not be the best ones for us.’ Try a mix of different workouts and ensure you’re not pushing yourself too hard.

Discover why Pilates can also boost your immunity and help beat stress