Anti-age your back.
Back hurting? Here's how to keep it strong and your posture perfect, whatever you're doing. When you're sleeping Propping your head up with too many pillows - or sleeping on mega-soft unsupportive ones - can trigger back problems by placing strain on the neck and back.
"The head should be well-supported - but kept in line with the spine," explains Danny Williams, member of the British Osteopathic Association.
Invest in quality pillows and replace them every six months.
If you lie on your back, just use one pillow to avoid an unnatural bend in the neck. Sleeping on your side puts the least stress on your spine, but you may need two pillows for proper support while, if you sleep on your front (the worst position for your back), you may not require any pillows at all.
Doing the housework Housework should be a workout. So, when you vacuum, never stand still and just push it back and forth.
Engage your tummy muscles, move with the vacuum and bend at the knees - never the waist.
When you have a cold "Sneezing is one of the top five causes of back pain," explains osteopath Garry Trainer (www.garrytrainer.com).
"The sudden force can have a whiplash effect, causing both back and neck pain. So, when you feel a sneeze coming on, bend your knees to absorb the force into your lower legs instead of your spine."
On a night out High-heeled shoes, particularly stilettos, force the entire weight of the body on to the front of the foot, altering your posture and putting pressure on your pelvis and lower back. Spongy inner soles will help absorb some stress.
'Cocktail party back' is another common problem.
Danny explains: "Standing for long periods and putting all your weight on one leg is likely to cause problems with your discs, particularly if you already suffer from back pain."
Try standing with both feet firmly planted on the ground and tilt your pelvis slightly forward to ensure your weight is distributed evenly.
Alternatively, switch your weight from one foot to the other or lean against a wall or the bar.
When watching the TV Slumping in front of the box places enormous strain on your back - particularly if you have a cushionbacked soft sofa. "Ideally, watch TV sitting upright on a dining room-type chair so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees - the best position for your back," says Danny.
At your desk Sitting still at work - and hunching over computer keyboards - causes more back problems than excessive lifting and carrying, according to a British Chiropractic Association survey.
"Think 'BBC' - Bums to Backs of Chairs," advises leading physiotherapist Sammy Margo. "This ensures you sit upright and avoid the dreaded 'C' slump."
Foam seat wedges will ensure your pelvis is positioned higher than your knees - try the Harley back care seat wedge (www.spinalproducts.co.uk).
Using your computer Place your feet flat on the floor and ensure the top of the screen is level with your eyes to discourage you from slumping.
he of ur u e ed h To counteract repetitive mouse action, take some time out mid-morning and mid-afternoon to sit with your hands in your lap and gently pull shoulder blades up, then back and down. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.
phone When on the phone If you're at work, stand up and arch your back when taking or making a call on the phone.
"Never cradle the phone between the ear and shoulder and type at the same time as this contributes to neck and shoulder stiffness," says Sammy.
Beware of 'text neck', caused by hunching over your telephone and overflexing the tissues and joints in the neck.
This can result in headaches or shoulder, neck and wrist pain in the short term and curvature of the spine and arthritis in the long term.
Try gently rotating your head and neck after sending a text - this will keep you feeling supple.
When you're driving Make sure your headrest is positioned at the correct height - to protect against whiplash in a crash.
And position your rear view mirror so you have to sit up straight to see in it. "Whenever you stop at traffic lights, suck in your tummy. A strong core will protect your back," says Sammy.
When getting kids in and out of the car "The motion of lifting and twisting - one of the worst combinations for your back - is hard to avoid when putting a child into a car seat," explains osteopath Simone Ross (www.kaneandross.co.uk), who specialises in women's back problems. Hold your child close to you and get as near as you can to the seat.
Sim kan wh wp r ch ge gto awy Bend at the knees and hips, not the waist. When placing your child in the seat shift the effort to your hips, arms and abdominals, rather than your back.
ysyat Ws Swimming Water provides great support and resistance and is non weight bearing for the body.
ab "However, the base of the neck is left vulnerable during breaststroke," says Garry. "Particularly if you don't put your head under the water - so invest in goggles!" ovbGyo un in If you do one thing Simply stretching each muscle group for 15-30 seconds every day can make all the difference to protecting your back. "But being able to bend over to touch your toes doesn't necessarily mean you're flexible," warns Garry.
"You need to move in six directions.
That's flexing forwards and backwards; rotating to the right and left and moving sideways right and left - and it all can be done sitting, lying and standing."
Log on to the British Chiropractic Association's website for great 'three-minute spine strengtheners' (www.chiropractic-uk.co.uk/straightenup) - or you might consider joining a Pilates class.
By Michele O'Connor