Exercise mistakes that make your back worse

Most back exercises are great for the back and it doesn’t seem to matter much what exercises you do as long as you stay active. But some exercises can be harmful and actually damage your back. So whether you like the gym, Pilates, yoga or a sport it is important to know the good and the bad. Matthew was recently interviewed about just this topic by Stu Girling from Love Yoga Anatomy. Stu trains yoga teachers and practitioners on safe ways to do yoga.

One of the exercises that does more harm than good is forward bending despite the fact that lots of people do it to stretch their back. As we bend forward huge pressure builds on the lower discs. As you bend from the waist, if the lumbar spine is held in neutral, with its natural forward curve, the pressure on the disc is reduced. If you round your lower back as you bend forwards then the discs are vulnerable. The jelly inside the disc gets forced backwards and can cause cracking in the outer disc wall. If this carries on it can cause a disc bulge or a “slipped disc”.




If you bend, as in a yoga forward fold, over and over again then it can cause injury. It is like repeatedly bending a credit card, a white line appears and ultimately it breaks.

Many people with back pain feel that their back is too stiff and want to stretch it. A better goal for exercises is the right mix of flexibility and stability. If your back is too stiff and this causing pain then the solution is to unlock the spinal joints with chiropractic manipulation or mobilisation. If, however, your problem is too much flexibility then we work to stabilise your spine.

Best holiday luggage to avoid back pain

Going on holiday can be a real pain. Never mind the early start, the airport queues, and flight delays but back pain is common on holiday especially if you take the wrong luggage. With the huge variety of suitcases to choose from, what is the best luggage to protect your back from harm when you are travelling?

The very worst type of luggage for bad backs is the conventional suitcase. It is often heavy, even when empty and is awkward to move around. If you have to carry it any distance it soon puts a huge and uneven strain on your back. Using a trolley can help but what if you don’t have the right coins at the foreign airport or if all the trolleys are in use. Then you are stuck with 20 kilos or more of back bothering menace.

If you do find a trolley and have the right change you still have to lift the case on and off it. Once you have all your luggage on the trolley it can become heavy and awkward to move. Trying to turn a corner means you have to twist from the waist to move the trolley which again strains the back. If your trolley has a dodgy wheel it is even worse!

The best option for holiday luggage is a light wheeled bag with an extendible handle. This will save your back from lots of lifting. You still need to take care getting it on and off baggage carousels and in and out of car boots but it reduces the strain whenever you have to walk anywhere. Unfortunately with luggage you can only have two out of these three options:-

  1. Light
  2. Strong
  3. Cheap

The strongest and lightest luggage will tend to be a bit pricier than more flimsy bags but it will last longer. It is worth visiting a luggage store where they can talk you through the options and you can play about with the different types of bag. Heft it around and make sure the wheels are big enough to ride over rough surfaces otherwise you’ll end up carrying it more than you need to.

Many luggage manufacturers make premium luggage for a cheaper brand so if you know what to look for you can save some cash. For example, Samsonite make luggage for the American Tourister brand as well as Lacoste and Timberland although the last two may not be cheaper. A good local luggage shop in Brighton is Friends for Leather, who have 20% off their Samsonite Cosmolite range at the moment . They are also offering Sundial clients a 10% discount on other Samsonite ranges.

A luggage maker that has won awards and was the first to offer rolling carry-on luggage is Travelpro. It is known for durable, well made luggage. Its Maxlite range stands out  especially the four wheeled spinner type bags. Spinner bags put even less strain on bad backs as they are more easily moved around inside tight spaces like aircraft and in queues. You will probably end up carrying a two wheeled bag more frequently.

Best carry-on luggage for a bad back

With the coming of budget airlines comes carry-on only luggage. Exorbitant fees for putting luggage in the hold of an aircraft means more of us are using on carry-on bag instead. The same rules apply to choosing carry-on luggage – but more so as you will probably end up carrying it around the airport for longer.  Look for roller or spinner cases that most carriers will allow in the cabin, for example Ryan Air allow maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm and British Airways a slightly more generous 56cm x 45cm x 25cm.

If you are checking bags in then keep your hand luggage as light as you can. You can end up carrying it for a long time and you don’t want to lift a 23kg load above your head into a locker if you back is aching. A good option for a carry-on bag is a rucksack type design. Some even have wheels as well but this adds to the weight. Use both straps to avoid back strain too.

Travel light to avoid back pain

One more obvious bit of advice, of course, is to travel light. There is not much that you cannot get in to a Tesco shopping bag for a one week beach holiday so why weigh your self down.

When packing your case, put it on a bed rather than the floor so you are not bending over repeatedly. It is easy enough to slide it to the floor when full and it is closed without lifting it directly. At your destination either ask someone else to lift it onto the bed or luggage rack or unpack it on the floor. It is best to minimise lifting after a long journey.

Top luggage tips to avoid back pain

  • Use light, wheeled cases
  • Travel light
  • Raise the case up to pack
  • Get help lifting a full case
  • Avoid airport trolleys

If you get back from holiday and you are still getting back pain in spite of following these tips, or you want to get into tip top shape before you go, then feel free to give us a call for a check up to see if our chiropractors can help you.

For more holiday tips to prevent back pain go here

Bad Backs in Children

Back pain in children is common. About half of school age children report back aches at some time. Poor school chairs are often to blame. In this video Matthew talks to BBC’s Newsround about the importance of good chairs at school.


If you would like your child to have a free spine check-up then please call us to book an appointment.