By David Saunders, Health Editor | UPDATED: 17:42, 12 November 2019
Sitting has been exposed as the new smoking, with experts calculating it kills 70,000 people prematurely every year. Now new research from www.mindyourbackuk.com – backed by Mentholatum — makers of a range of evidence-based muscle and joint products and the brains behind a public health initiative – MIND YOUR BACK – reveals that millions of people are putting their health at risk because of long hours sitting down on the job.
And they’re compounding the damage by slouching on the sofa after a long day at work. The new survey from Mentholatum’s MIND YOUR BACK campaign shows that three out of five people (57%) sit down for four or more hours of their working day, and when they get home the same number remains seated for another two to four hours.
Physiotherapist Sammy Margo and a supporter of www.mindyourbackuk.com warns: “The dangers of such sedentary lifestyles are not simply due to reduced calorie burning, habitual inactivity leads to a slew of health issues known collectively as hypokinetic diseases.”
Studies confirm that sitting for more than an hour triggers changes in the body’s biochemistry, and this alters fat and glucose metabolism and promotes weight gain. Based on data for just five diseases — type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, endometrial cancer and lung cancer — scientists at Queen’s University in Belfast estimate that 11.6 per cent of deaths could be stalled if we avoided sitting for such long periods.
Our walk-shy lifestyles are also driving an epidemic of musculoskeletal pain, with two out of five people (39%) experiencing problems at least once a week, and four out of five (84%) adults reporting they have suffered from back pain at some time in their lives.
The new MIND YOUR BACK data, shows that over a third (35%) of adults’ experience more back pain than they did a year ago, two out of three adults (68%) have experienced pain as a result of their posture, and four out of five (85%) believe poor posture has an impact on health.
Back pain, followed by neck and shoulder pain, are the issues most commonly cited by those who believe poor posture contributes to health problems — 64% and 50% respectively.
GP and advisor to www.mindyourbackuk.com, Dr Dawn Harper says: “There is a growing body of evidence highlighting the link between sedentary lifestyles and back pain. We already have huge numbers of people reporting problems, and this is likely to continue to rise as a result of prolonged periods of inactivity, combined with an ageing and increasingly obese population.”
As part of their ongoing commitment to providing evidence-based products to prevent and relieve back pain, Mentholatum has worked with medical and activity experts to create Mind Your Back — following five simple S.T.E.P.S. (Stretch, Therapy, Exercise, Posture and Strengthening) to help manage and prevent back pain and reduce the risk of serious inactivity-linked illness. For details, go to www.mindyourbackuk.com
Experts in ergonomics advise anyone whose job involve sitting for long periods to take a one or two minute break to stand up and move around every 20 to 30 minutes. Another approach, outlined in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, advises desk-based workers to break up their day with standing-based work, or switching to a sit-stand desk. The panel of international experts suggest initially aiming for two hours of standing or light activity every working day and building up to four hours a day.
5 S.T.E.P.S. TO REDUCE BACK PAIN
Here’s how take S.T.E.P.S. to reduce back pain and protect your health:
Stretching is the first step. A 12-week trial in 228 adults with chronic lower back pain found that stretching exercises were more effective than yoga at reducing pain and improving mobility. Dr Dawn Harper says: “Mind Your Back sets out five stretches which only take a minute or two, but will reduce stiffness, boost circulation and ease pain.”
Postural alignment specialist, Jan Keller advises: “If your job involves sitting for long periods, incorporating these simple stretches into your routine on a regular basis will not only help prevent and ease back pain, it will also go a long way towards reducing your risk of ill-health associated with inactivity.”
Therapy when things go wrong, is the next step to staying mobile. Jan Keller says: “We instinctively seek something warming or cooling when we experience muscle pain — and there is sound science to confirm the efficacy of this approach.” The world-renowned Cochrane Library reports: “Heat may work by improving circulation and relaxing muscles, while cold may numb the pain, decrease swelling, constrict blood vessels and block nerve impulses to the joint.”
A clinical trial in patients with acute lower back pain found that a combination of thermotherapy (warmth) and cryotherapy (cold) provides effective relief from low back pain without the side-effects associated with pharmaceutical treatments.
And physiotherapist Sammy Margo advises: “Topical analgesics will also provide rapid relief.” Studies on topical analgesics have concluded they, “are effective and safe for the relief of moderately severe chronic pain attributed to arthritis, neuropathic conditions, and musculoskeletal disorders”.
Mentholatum offers an unparalleled portfolio of therapies which provide proven relief using all three of these methods; hot, cold and anti-inflammatory therapies, and in a range of modalities, including rubs, gels, lotions, sprays and patches.
Two out of three adults (68%) have experienced pain as a result of their posture and four out of five (85%) believe poor posture has an impact on health.
Dr Dawn Harper says: “Doctors used to recommend bedrest for back pain, but the current guidelines are clear — getting mobile as quickly as possible, and keeping on the move, is the best way to relieve and prevent problems.
“Obviously you have to exercise intelligently. Walking is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep mobile and increase strength.”
Posture was identified as a trigger for muscular pain by two out of three (68%) of adults and four out of five (85%) were convinced poor posture has an impact on health and the new Mentholatum MIND YOUR BACK research found that three quarters (74%) of the adults surveyed thought it was always best to sit up straight.
Back pain may have more impact than we realise. Professor Peter O’Sullivan, a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist, based at Curtin University in Western Australia, says: “What we do know is that those people who sit with back pain are more likely to be working harder than those without.” He explains: “They’ve got more muscle tension than less, so that would suggest that they’re not relaxed in terms of how they’re holding their backs.”
Strengthening – a long-term solution to help prevent back pain is by strengthening the back-supporting muscles which weaken over time. And a strong core provides good support for the spine.
Go to www.mindyourbackuk.com for five exercises which are specially designed to strengthen muscles and help manage and prevent back pain.