Back Pain


Poor posture at work, whilst driving or at home is a major cause of back pain and repetitive strain injury. The consequences are varied and include fatigue, referred pain in other parts of our body and a loss of general vitality which can cause lost time, reduced productivity, poor general health and even poor emotional health. It is the second biggest cause of absenteeism after stress. From the research we have undertaken with leading specialist physiotherapists it is poor posture and weak imbalanced muscles that accounts for the vast majority of back problems. This will, of course be made worse by other factors such as poor mattresses, seating, failure to take regular breaks, being overweight etc.

However, correcting any of these supplementary factors will not solve back pain that is caused by poor posture.

One of the most important steps you can make, therefore, is to become more aware of the signals your body and mind are providing to you and any pain or tingling sensations should be referred to your GP and more specialist advice sought if necessary. Ignoring such signals can lead to chronic conditions which become very difficult to treat. Genetics can also play their part and joints that are perhaps not mechanically perfect can cause problems through wear and tear as we get older. We may not realise we have a hidden problem until the painful symptoms present themselves so again it is important not to ignore them and don’t be persuaded by a GP that does not want to investigate it further if your symptoms persist. Ask for a referral to a specialist.

Another important step to take is to educate yourself on the importance of your postural muscles and begin a gentle regime of retraining your body to function as it would have done when you were younger. Studying young children will see how they naturally sit more upright – we lose the strength, balance and flexibility of some of our muscles through too much sitting – we were not designed to sit for long hours in chairs at work, home and in the car.

Below you will find a series of simple exercises you can do to help counter the effects of our sedentary lifestyle. Remember, if any doubt about any pain or discomfort you are feeling please seek advice from a medical professional. After the exercises described below we have provided some information from the Health and Safety Executive website including some useful links to publications on Repetitive Strain Injury and working with VDU’s. For a more detailed set of guides to stretching please click here


Please perform all stretches slowly and gently. if you feel any pain or discomfort, stop!

It is the quality of the stretch that is important and not the intensity.

The Neck stretch; in an upright sitting position…1, straighten one arm down alongside your hip, flex the hand then tilt head in the opposite direction. 2, Turn head left/ right.

Arm stretch; in an upright sitting position, feet on the floor, take both arms out parallel to the floor pointing away from each other out to the side, flex fingers upright & rotate wrists. Make sure your shoulders are down.

Dumb waiter; sitting or standing…bring forearms to a 90-degrees angle in front of the torso, palms facing the ceiling, elbows tucked into waist. Breath in, breath out whilst opening forearms to the side, feel shoulder blades come together & chest stretch.

Shoulder blade stretch; sitting or standing…take both arms out parallel to the floor, pointing away from each other out to the side & bend elbows so finger tips are pointing towards the ceiling. Bring arms in towards each other so fingers & elbows meet in front.

Leg stretch; whilst sitting, straighten one leg at a time, circle ankle slowly, point & flex foot. Make sure the knee is not locked.

Back stretch; whilst sitting, bring individual knee to head. You may tuck your head down slightly when performing this stretch. Perform slowly and gently and to not force the stretch so that it causes pain. If you feel pain ease off slightly until it is comfortable.

Spine rotation stretch; rest right ankle on left knee, twist torso gently towards the right, left straight arm lock against the right thigh. Repeat on opposite leg. If you have any stiffness in your hip area this stretch may be unsuitable.

The following information is copied from free guides available from the HSE website on back pain, RSI’s and working with VDU’s


  • try to take regular breaks;

  • get up and stretch;

  • sit up comfortably in a chair that supports your lower back;

  • during computer work, ensure that you adjust your chair height so that your forearms are comfortably resting on the desk and your elbows are roughly at right angles;

  • vary your tasks, so that you are trying to avoid the same movements for prolonged periods using the same part(s) of your body.

  • co-operate with arrangements your employer introduces to reduce risks. This may be through systems or equipment in place for you to use or a system of reporting accidents, near misses or symptoms of ill health.


Off work and suffering back pain?

  • keep in regular contact with your employer to make them aware of your situation, and to discuss what adjustments might be needed once you are ready to return.

  • discuss your needs with your employer and occupational health provider. If there is no occupational health provider available, your GP or safety representative may be able to discuss possible work restrictions or adjustments.

  • suggest any practical workplace adaptations or alterations which might help you to cope while you return to full time working.

© 2012 7Futures Ltd. Registered Office: Laurel Drive, 7 George Fox Lane, Fenny Drayton, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, CV13 6BE. Registered in England and Wales No. 7945762

© 2012 7Futures Ltd. Please note that, at 7Futures, our role is to help educate and encourage our clients to take positive responsibility for their wellbeing. We are not medical doctors and are not able to offer individual medical advice. We always recommend you should discuss with your GP or other medical professional before making any changes you hope will impact your wellbeing, or that of your current/future family.  7Futures Ltd offers generic information which is for educational purposes only. The information we provided is not a prescription system and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. As such our materials, videos products and communications are for general information purposes only and should not be read as a personal recommendation for specific changes in lifestyle behaviour, nutrition, or exercise. Please click here for a clear description of our services and the relationship with you as a client. You should not participate in any of our services until you have studied this is for your benefit.

Mark Davies