Lower back pain is a common woe of Singaporeans, affecting about 80 per cent of the adult population here at one point or another in their lives, a study by Changi General Hospital (CHG) found.
Those who spend hours in front of the computer, live stressful or sedentary lifestyles, or are often required to do hours of repetitive lifting are especially at risk of getting lower back pain, Senior Physiotherapist of CGH Florence Wong told RazorTV.
This rings especially true for many Singaporeans, who are used to desk-bound jobs and long hours in the office.
Our bad daily habits, such as poor posture in terms of sitting, standing and lifting, are common causes of lower back pain, along with more obvious causes such as accident, sports and industrial-related injuries, said Wong.
And contrary to popular belief, lower back pain affects people from all age groups.
Take for example 19-year-old Jerryl Ling. Ling strained his back carrying heavy cartons of books about two years ago, and finally sought proper treatment a year ago after his army camp mate recommended physiotherapy.
With his back pain described to be as high as a seven on a scale of 10, Ling has been going for regular physiotherapy sessions for his lower back pain at CHG ever since.
Today, there are many therapy options available for those seeking relief.
In place of resorting to short term solutions like pain killers, medications or massages, sufferers would be better advised to undergo treatment options such as hydrotherapy.
The 1.8m hydrotherapy pool in CGH has helped over 2,000 patients ever since it was introduced two years ago, RazorTV reported.
Hydrotherapy involves using water for pain-relief and treating of back pain. The warm water relaxes the muscles and the buoyancy relieves loading of the joints. Patients submerge themselves in water and make use of the gentle water resistance and various exercise equipment to strengthen their back muscles and improve their range of movement.
Wong suggested three simple exercises patients can do in a hydrotherapy routine.
1. Strengthening the lower back muscles
A simple pool exercise patients can begin with is to stand in the water with their feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, and push down a float downwards into the water.
2. Stretching the tensed lower back muscles
To stretch and relax the lower back muscles, patients can try standing in the same stance, and use a crescent shaped float to support them while slowly pushing their bodies forward and back.
In this technique ideal for those with severe back pain, patients hold themselves in an aligned position on the water's surface while being supported by multiple small floats along the body. Patients are then gently guided by the therapist around in the water.
Simple steps to good posture
Simple steps to good posture
However, the best option out there is still prevention.
To this end, Wong shared with RazorTV simple preventive measures that we can practise at home or in the office.
- Do not over arch your back when sitting. Relax your back and hold it in a straight position.
- Likewise, do not hunch or slouch. This posture puts pressure directly on the lower portion of the spine, creating compression pressure. Instead, straighten your back to evenly spread the pressure across the length of your spine.
- Sit further into the chair to let the back of the chair support your back
- When seated, rest your feet flat on the ground. Utilise a foot stool if your feet are not able to do so.
Wong also recommended a few simple exercises that can be easily done in the office.
- Sit mid-way in a chair and gently rock your pelvis forward and backwards.
- Sit with your back against the back of a chair, and turn your upper body from side to side.
- To work on your posture after sitting for too long, do a few calf and hamstring stretches.