Bare as you dare – how sunbathing prevents back pain

The sun is shining; it’s warmed up; time to take your clothes off!

If you are suffering from ongoing back pain, then you could be deficient in Vitamin D. This hormone is responsible for a wide range of processes in the body including bone and muscle function. A commonly missed cause of back pain is Vitamin D deficiency, especially over a long winter. At least 50% of people in the UK show signs of vitamin D deficiency and many will have increased back pain as a result.

Common signs of vitamin D deficiency

  • muscle and bone aching
  • pain sensitisation, lower pain threshold
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • weakness
  • muscle soreness after exercise

Vitamin D is essential for bone formation as it helps your body absorb calcium from food. If you don’t have enough Vitamin D you can get a condition called osteomalacia. The dull, aching pain associated with osteomalacia most commonly affects the lower back, pelvis, hips, legs and ribs. This pain can be worse at night, or when you’re weight bearing. Vitamin D deficiency may cause morning back pain in some people too.

How much Vitamin D is enough?

There are various ideas about what the minimum blood levels for Vitamin D are required. This is a measure in nanomoles per litre of blood (nmol/L). Severe deficiency is anything below 25nmol/L, but anyone below 50nmol/L is considered deficient. Optimum health is often thought of a being above 85 nmol/L although more than 125nmol/L can be required for some people.

How can you get enough Vitamin D?

Fortunately, it is easy to get enough Vitamin D for free as you make it in your skin. Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UVB) rays that stimulate Vitamin D production. UVB rays also cause sunburn, however, so it is important to avoid over-exposure. If you cover up or use sunscreen, you will not produce Vitamin D so only aim for short exposure.

A sensible approach is to aim for 10-30 minutes exposure on as much bare skin as you dare, depending on how sensitive your skin is, several times a week when the sun is strong enough; in the UK that is from April to September. Full body sun exposure with no sunscreen will produce up to 20,000iu (500 μg) in 30 minutes. More importantly, once you have made enough Vitamin D your skin stops producing it so you can’t get too much.

Vitamin D supplements

Over the winter or for if you are severely deficient then supplements are the only way to go. In your diet oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines provide some vitamin D but you would, for example, need to eat 20 tins of salmon a day to get 5000iu.

Here at Sundial we recommend a liquid Vitamin D supplement which is highly absorbable and inexpensive. The chewable calcium based supplements from ordinary shops are often too low in Vitamin D to help much.

Summary

  • Vitamin D deficiency is common and can cause back pain
  • Safe sun exposure on bare skin from April to September is beneficial
  • Taking a good quality supplement over the winter prevents deficiency

For more information and references:

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/how-to-get-vitamin-d-from-sunlight/

https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamins/vitamin-d/#new-vitamin-d-research

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-foods-high-in-vitamin-d#section2

 

Half of people in the South East fail to prevent or manage back pain

Low back stretchPeople in the South East encouraged to stay active this Chiropractic Awareness Week

This Chiropractic Awareness Week (8th – 14th April) the British Chiropractic Association is encouraging people in the South East to keeping moving, after finding that 42% of people in the South East don’t take any steps to look after their back health.

The findings come from a survey conducted by the BCA, which unearthed that 25% of people in South East don’t take any action when they experience back or neck pain and 13% wouldn’t seek help from a health professional if they were experiencing these issues.

Chiropractic Awareness Week aims to educate people about the easy ways they can avoid or alleviate back pain, which on average 80% of the nation has experienced. Regularly changing posture and remaining seated for no longer than 30 minutes at a time are just a couple of the simple ways to prevent or reduce pressure on the back.

According to the BCA’s survey, when it comes to back and neck pain, they found that people in the South East:

  • 42% don’t take any steps to look after their back health
  • Only 58% have taken preventative steps to protect themselves from developing back or neck pain
  • 82% have experienced back or neck pain
  • 13% wouldn’t seek help from a health professional for back pain and, 31% would wait a month or longer
  • Only 13% would make changes to their daily routine if experiencing back or neck pain
  • 18% choose their mattresses bases on price, rather than comfort

Matthew Bennett from Sundial Clinic in Brighton, commented on the findings:

“There are so many people in South East living with neck or back pain because they don’t know what preventative steps they can take, so we want to shine a light on the simple changes which can help. Chiropractic Awareness Week is designed to educate everyone on the best ways to prevent and tackle back or neck pain, from changing up your posture when sat at a desk, to sleeping on the right mattress.”

“Easy changes to your day-to-day life can make a significant difference, but if your pain doesn’t reduce or is prolonged, you should always see a health professional for further guidance.”

Matthew Bennett’s top tips for keeping on top of neck and back pain include:

  • Keep on moving: Physical activity can be beneficial for managing back pain, however it’s important that if this is of a moderate to high intensity that you warm up and down properly to get your body ready to move! If a previous injury is causing you pain, adapt your exercise or seek some advice. Activities such as swimming, walking or yoga can be less demanding on your body, while keeping you mobile!
  • Take a break: When sitting for long periods of time, ensure you stand up and move around every 30 minutes. When at work, also make sure your desk is set up to support a comfortable position. This is different for everyone so if you don’t feel comfortable in your current set up, try altering the height of your chair or screen.

Other things which people can bear in mind include:

  • Lifting and carrying: Remember to bend from the knees, not the waist when lifting heavy items. Face in the direction of movement and take your time. Hold the object as close to your body as possible, and where you can avoid carrying objects which are too heavy to manage alone, ask for help or use the necessary equipment.
  • Sleep comfortably: The Sleep Council recommends buying a new mattress at least every 7 years. Mattresses lose their support over time, so if you can feel the springs through your mattress, or the mattress is no longer level, your mattress is no longer providing the support you need. Everyone has different support requirements, so when purchasing your mattress ensure it is supportive for you. If you share a bed and require different mattress types, consider two single mattresses which are designed to be joined together, to ensure you both get the support you need.
  • Straighten Up!: The BCA has created a programme of three-minute exercises, Straighten Up UK, which can be slotted into your daily schedule to help prevent back pain by promoting movement, balance, strength and flexibility in the spine.

If you have back pain book in for a free consultation

  • Queens Road, Brighton 01273 774114
  • Kemptown, Brighton 01273 696414