Ok, I’m going to do you all a massive favour today, and tell you a secret about backs. You know when they tell you to bend your knees when you lift something, to avoid slipped discs and general agony? Well, yes, that does work, but there’s something better.
I discovered it this summer after sitting in a slightly skewed position for an hour (watching Child One trying to insert contact lenses at our local opticians, partly squirming in horror at the memory of fiddling with eyes, partly squashed because it’s really not a big shop). Just this short amount of time in the wrong position left me hobbling for a week.
It’s all because of an injury I had twenty years ago. I’ve tried stuff before – chiropractors, pilates – and it all works, to an extent. But a combination of lymphodema and inertia means that I have left off all the yoga and stretching for the last couple of years.
I was a bit reluctant to try anything else and waited until I was pretty much out of pain before visiting a physiotherapist, recommended by a very no-nonsense friend. In fact, it was Child One herself who took the initiative and made the appointment, perhaps foreseeing that I would spend the rest of my life on the sofa rather than risk more pain.
Anyway, the physio is a marvel. A few gentle prods and everything is back in the right place, thank goodness. And the trick to making sure it stays that way? Yes, by all means bend your knees. But also, every time you do something which strains your back, like lifting, bending or stretching, just hiss. Yes, hiss like a snake. Except really loudly.
When you hiss nice and loudly, you engage all the muscles around the vulnerable chunk of your spine, which connects your hips with your rib cage. Try it now. Take a breath, put your hands on your waist, and hiss. You’ll notice (if you’re hissing nice and loudly) that everything inside your waist suddenly goes tense.That’s all your muscles, ganging up together and providing a natural ‘support girdle’ that should help to prevent your back from going into spasm. The physio says that eventually I will be able to tense everything without having to make the hissing noise, which will be a great relief to everyone around me in supermarkets, and definitely a boon to my sensitive daughters, who of course don’t need me to appear any madder than strictly necessary.
So there you are. The secret to back health for life. You’re very welcome.