ACCORDING to research published by the British Chiropractic Association last week, almost a quarter of Britons complain of a a sore back, neck or shoulder due to carrying or using gadgets such as a smart phone or laptop.
The online survey showed that the number of people in the UK who suffer from back pain is up 4% on last year.
It’s no wonder then that more of us are taking time off work due to back complaints, something chiropractor Tone Tellefsen Hughes, from Luck’s Yard, in Milford, is keen to highlight.
Tone, who has worked in chiropractics for around 20 years, has a team of therapists at the Portsmouth Road clinic, who work to help alleviate back, neck and other muscular aches and pains.
As well as four registered chiropractors, there are therapists working in acupuncture, reflexology, Shiatsu, chiropody, Swedish massage and lymph drainage, in a bid to offer a range of complementary treatments.
“I like to run this as a kind of one-stop shop,” Tone said. “It means that if a chiropractic treatment is not something the person I am seeing needs, I can just knock on the door of one of the other therapists, rather than the patient being referred and maybe having to wait weeks or months for an appointment somewhere else.
“It’s really about getting people the treatment they need as soon as possible. If we cannot offer what they need, I will, of course, refer them elsewhere.”
Being office-based, a laptop and smartphone user and someone who spends around two to three hours a day behind the wheel of a car, I was interested to see what I could do to help alleviate the damage I was doing to my back.
My first stop was a session with Luck’s Yard’s Swedish deep tissue massage expert, Robert Rusak. With14 years’ experience in the technique, he asked me what sort of pain or tension I felt in my back before asking me to lie, face down, on the massage bed.
I’ve had a deep tissue massage before and it was pretty excruciating so I was concerned this would be a similar experience. However, the techniques Robert used managed to release the knots in my back with minimal pain.
By feeling the different areas with the most tension, he was able to tell that I am right-handed but perch my phone under my left ear, use a laptop rather than a PC and carry my handbag on my right shoulder.
Leaving the treatment relaxed and a little sleepy – this was due to a massage releasing endorphins in my body, Robert told me – I popped downstairs for a consultation with Tone.
The first things she noticed was how my feet roll in when they are standing width distance apart and the fact that my hips are slightly out of line, due to always standing with my wait shifted to one side.
“I recommend you get some insoles,”she said. “It sounds silly but I really recommend this to all women, particularly if they’re going to have children.
“When the baby weight comes, that will cause extra pressure on your legs, causing feet to roll in more, which in turn leads to back pain.”
Back pain in pregnancy is something Tone is passionate about raising awareness of, as well as getting babies’ backs checked when they are born. This is so much so, that she offers a free 30-minute check for all babies under three months on the basis that parents make a £5 donation to the Safe Delivery Trust Fund.
Back to my assessment, Tone asked me to lie on the bench so she could examine me. She noticed some areas of tension and asked if I minded her doing some ‘adjustments’.
This is when a chiropodist applies a short, sharp pulse of pressure to an area and it makes a cracking noise. It sounds awful but is, in fact, just trapped gas from the liquid around your spine being released.
According to BCA research, laptops are a major culprit of back pain, with 27% of sufferers admitting to using a laptop for more than two hours per day. As I have recently started using a laptop for work, Tone gave me some simple tips on how to minimise any damage.
“Make sure your screen is the correct height,” she said. If you are using a laptop, position it at a higher level on your desk so you are not looking down. Make sure you sit with the armrests of your chair just under the desk and pull yourself as close to the desk as possible.
“If you are reading documents as you type, get a document holder and position it as close to your computer screen as possible, so you only have to avert your eyes to look at it and not move your whole head,” she told me.
Although Tone didn’t find any specfic problems with my back, she said the stress I was putting on it by not following these steps could cause difficulties in the future and it was best to nip bad habits in the bud as soon as possible.
As the BCA’s Tim Hutchful puts it: “It is no surprise that people are working longer and harder than ever. However, it is important to realise the implications of this on the health and wellbeing of your back after a full eight hours or more sitting in the same position.
“Getting away from your desk at lunchtime and at regular intervals throughout your working day is vital, even if it is just for 10 to 15 minutes.
“Otherwise, a simple stretch can relieve built-up tension in your lower back after being seated for a long time. In the long run, the result is that you will ultimately feel better and be more productive for the remainder of the day.”
● Luck’s Yard is currently offering 15% off selected treatments for NHS professionals and GP surgery staff. For details, call 01483 527945 or visit www.lucksyardclinic.co.uk.