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Are box-set binges impacting your back health?

Modern sedentary lifestyles are having a dangerous impact on our backs, experts warn today. Whether it be sitting for long hours at desks, bingeing on addictive nightly boxsets or relying on the convenience of food-delivery services, new and serious musculoskeletal conditions are being identified and on the rise – also causing unnecessary burden on the overstretched Health Service.

UK’s experts in muscular and joint pain Mentholatum are launching their groundbreaking ‘Mind Your Back’ campaign with a uniquely inspired call to action. Reminiscent of artist Tracey Emin’s infamous “My Bed”, they today demonstrate, through a living installation at art gallery Hoxton Arches with performing artists, the physical damage we are causing to our backs and musculoskeletal systems, and providing simple-to-follow solutions.

Chartered physiotherapist, Sammy Margo explains: “An active lifestyle is universally accepted as an essential component in determining long-term mobility and overall quality-of-life, however the WHO’s 2016 report on ageing and heath recently emphasised the increasing prevalence of global musculoskeletal health conditions as a result of sedentary lifestyles.”

“We are currently living more inactively than ever before – spending long amounts of time sitting, often in a slouched position hunched over a computer, staring down at a smartphone or tablet, or in front of the TV; all of which overstretch spinal structures such as the muscles and ligaments which can lead to back pain. These conditions result in new trends in musculoskeletal weaknesses.

Sedentary behaviour occupies around 60% of Brits total waking hours, despite DoH guidelines recommending that adults should carry out a minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate intensity physical activity per week.

Work has a significant impact on the health of our backs with research finding that eight out of ten people who use a computer for more than four hours per day complain of back pain. A 2016 review has also found that back disorders counted for 39% of the estimated 8,784,000 work days lost to work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

Moreover, Brits seem to be ditching even visiting the supermarket, ordering online instead. The delivery food sector has risen by almost 10% to 599 million visits in 2015. By 2020, online grocery spend is predicted to reach £15billion.

Video-on-demand services are also on the rise with nearly a quarter (24%) of UK households having a subscription to Netflix, Amazon Video or Sky’s Now TV in Q4 2015, rising from just 14% in Q1 2014. The average Briton now spends three and a half hours per day watching TV, adding up to 1,277 hours per year.

Rolling episodes on streaming services such as Netflix are also having an impact, with new research commissioned by Mentholatum and conducted by independent company OnePoll on 500 adults found that three quarters of Brits are more likely to continue watching episode after episode, because the next one starts automatically.

Sammy Margo continues; “This consistent screen viewing without interruption is having an impact on our backs with recent scientific findings also showing that high levels of screen viewing was associated with an increased risk of low back pain disability – particularly in women.

“Our core muscles, which consist of our back muscles, abdominal muscles and our pelvic floor, help support the spine and provide strength to keep our body upright and able to move. When these muscles become weak through lack of use, additional stress is added to the spine which can then lead to low back pain.

“There is a very real epidemic of ‘modern malaises’, with these new trends in musculoskeletal symptoms rarely seen before the dramatic rise in streaming services which allow – even encourage – us to spend more time watching episode after episode of addictive viewing, which even stream one after the other. With the rise in convenient food and other retail delivery services, people are barely even strolling to the shops anymore. These issues truly should be recognised as Netflix-and-Ill, Amazon Spine or Lumbago-roo!”

Official advice from NICE on low back pain has recently been updated to now recommend that exercise in all is forms, including stretching, strengthening and yoga, should be the first step to manage the condition.

As we are now living busy lives, trying hard to balance work with pleasure, working longer hours and until an older age, exercise is often put on the back-burner. Mentholatum has therefore developed five easy to follow S.T.E.P.S. to help the nation prevent and reduce back pain which can be done in the office or a home – Stretch, Therapy, Exercise, Posture, Strengthen.

Director of marketing and new product development at Mentholatum, Jillian Watt says:
“Failure to address weak back muscles caused by sedentary and working lifestyles is seriously impacting people’s lives resulting in lost working days and adding pressure on our NHS resources. Action needs to be taken to ensure Brits can continue living healthy and active lives as we age. We designed an easy to follow 5 step program to help encourage people to manage and help prevent back pain which can be done in the office or at home.”

Elite fitness trainer, Faisal Abdalla is also noticing the impact our sedentary lives are having on our bodies and stresses the need to take action. He says: “A concerning amount of my clients experience back pain day-to-day and for a lot of them the key to relieving that pain is to keep moving and do gentle exercises, rather than stopping and resting. S.T.E.P.S. (Stretch, Therapy, Exercise, Posture and Strengthen) is an easy way to remember what we need to do and can be used at any time of the day to ensure we are looking after our backs and living healthier lives.”

Sammy Margo continues: “It’s important to follow these 5 S.T.E.P.S. to look after our backs. Alongside stretching and exercise, it’s also a good idea to keep a topical product close by for pain relief. There is a wide range of Mentholatum products including Deep Heat (thermotherapy), Deep Freeze (cryotherapy) and Deep Relief (anti-inflammatory relief); gels, patches and roll-ons; to help Brits get through the discomfort of back pain which is becoming increasingly common.”

  • Thermotherapy, or heat therapy, helps to soften tight muscles and ligaments and helps restore movement. It provides pain relief and increases blood flow to the affected area, providing oxygen and nutrients to help aid the healing process.
  • Cryotherapy, or cold therapy, provides fast pain relief for sharp shooting back pain or back pain during pregnancy.
  • Topical Anti-inflammatories provide penetrating pain relief targeting inflammation and are suitable for back, rheumatic and muscular pain.
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