• Look for the posture that puts the least stress on your back. Stand up straight with your weight evenly balanced on both feet. Tilt your pelvis forwards, then back, exaggerating the movement. Then settle into the position that feels most comfortable.
Now ‘work your way up’ your back, focusing on one area at a time. First concentrate on the area near your waist, then your chest and finally your neck and shoulders. Try to feel which position is most comfortable and least stressful. This is the position to maintain when you’re standing, walking and beginning or ending any exercise.
• When you’re sleeping, lie on your back or your side (unless you have sciatica). If you’re more comfortable on your back, place a pillow under your knees as well as under your head to relieve pressure on your lower back. If you prefer to sleep on your side, place a pillow between your legs. If you have sciatica, the recommended position is on your stomach.
• If you like to sit up in bed to read or watch television, buy a large foam wedge that supports your upper body in a comfortable position. For added comfort – and to keep your neck in the proper position – use a foam or inflatable neck support when you are sitting up.
• When you are sitting on an office chair or at home, keep your feet flat on the floor, with your hips slightly higher than your knees. Use a lumbar support behind your lower back. The lumbar roll is a chair’s-width foam cylinder about 12 cm in diameter. You can improvise with a rolled-up towel, but the foam version is lighter, easier to position and usually has straps that attach it to the back of the chair.
• Try and stay out of the car, but if you must drive, place a foam wedge behind your lower back.
• If you’re accustomed to walking around with a wallet in your hip pocket, take it out whenever you’re sitting. Even though it feels like a small lump, it’s big enough to tilt your backside, throwing your spine ever so slightly out of alignment.
• When you’re standing at the sink washing dishes, or waiting in a bus queue, raise one foot higher than the other. In the kitchen, keep a low sturdy box or a couple of old books by the sink, and put up a foot while you’re standing there. Waiting in a queue, use a step or curb. (Think of the traditional brass rail in a pub or bar, which serves the same purpose.) Periodically change position by putting up the opposite foot. This shifting of weight gives alternating back muscles a chance to relax.