Back to The Grind


A touch of over-eating this Christmas? Spent too many £s and gained too many lbs? We know the feeling. So when the nice people at Marylebone Online asked us to give you some advice on how to avoid the most common back injuries associated with work, we developed some ‘low calorie’ options.

As if January wasn’t depressing enough, it is said that we spend a third of our lives at work. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that injuries related to work affected some 1.2 million people in the UK last year, and the majority of these were musculoskeletal. Back problems, including neck problems, account for a large proportion of these injuries, but it’s worth pointing out that of course your back doesn’t know whether you’re at work or at home, so our advice is the same for wherever you are.

Here’s an ABC mnemonic to help:

A for awareness, B for behaviour, and C for control.


  • What is my body is telling me? If something feels awkward or uncomfortable, the chances are it’s doing you no good. Stop and modify the activity that may be causing a problem. Be aware of your posture and tension in your muscles.
  • What am I doing? – What those self-help books call ‘being in the moment’. When stressed, tired, anxious and under pressure, we tend to forget to take care.
  • Where is my head?! – Unlike horses, humans are not designed to lead with our heads, but to be upright in our posture.
  • What am I doing here? Be aware of your limitations – does this task require more people or training? Might you need specialised equipment in order to minimise the risk of injury?


Behaviour for basic health – Regular exercise, good diet and sufficient sleep protects against injury by improving physical condition, endurance and reaction to stress. Smoking is also associated with an increased incidence of back pain.

  • Do – take a break before you ‘break’ – Taking a short break every 30 minutes or so can relieve muscle tension and fatigue when performing a sustained or repetitive activity
  • Don’t – clamp a phone between your ear and your shoulder for long periods. Do use a headset if possible.
  • Don’t – slouch. Mum was right. Slouching posture leads to muscle fatigue, predisposing to injury.
  • Don’t – take shortcuts by using unsuitable equipment or failing to use techniques that are designed to protect you in your work.


  • Do – sit close to your desk and keep everything within comfortable reach.
  • Do – lift and carry heavy items close to you. To revise school physics, holding a load at arm’s length imposes about five times the stress experienced when holding the same load close to the body.
  • Do – think before moving a heavy or awkward object so that you can control the task and not find yourself taking unexpected weight, slipping, or dropping something.

Just making a few simple changes is better than doing nothing at all. And remember, although injuring your back could cause inconvenience to your employer, annoyance to your family and strain on your finances, the only person who is really going to be sorry if you injure your back, is you!

Claire Cheetham and Vince Cullen are registered osteopaths at
The Active Health Clinic, John Bell & Croyden, 50-54 Wigmore St, London, W1U 2AU.

Until 28th February 2015, we are offering a 20% reduction from all FIRST VISIT consultations.

Usual price: £70
Offer price: £56

To book your place, please call 0207 486 8141 or email

(Length of consultation is 1 hour and includes detailed medical case history taking, examination, explanation of diagnosis and treatment if required.)


About Author

A guest contributor to Marylebone Online.