Pain and tension in our bodies is all too common, with more than half (53%) of Brits pointing to their back as the most common culprit. Whether you think you 'did your back in', slept funny, or just can't seem to shift symptoms, both our physical and mental health (more on that later) can be affected by and contribute towards ongoing pain, making it a "vicious cycle" difficult for anyone to endure.
"It can be easy to just try and ignore back pain but that makes it worse," says Sammy Margo, physiotherapist and advisor to Deep Heat, Deep Freeze and Deep Relief, behind the research.
Luckily, there are specific ways in which we can move our bodies that can help. "Exercise is incredibly important for our backs and a lack of this can contribute to back tension and pain."
Here are the physiotherapist's top five exercises or stretches to both release and prevent back tension. Just warm up, grab a mat, and find a comfortable space.
Read more: What causes back pain and how to deal with it (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)
Five exercises to release back tension
1. Knee to chest stretch
"Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Use both hands to pull up one knee and press it towards your chest. Press your spine to the floor. Hold for five seconds. Repeat with the other leg then both legs together. Repeat this routine three times morning and evening.
2. Lower back rotation stretch
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Slowly roll your bent knees to one side keeping your shoulders firmly on the floor. Hold for five seconds. Slowly go back to the starting position then roll your knees to the other side. Repeat this routine three times morning and evening.
3. Lower back flex
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Tighten the muscles in your belly so that your lower back pulls up, away from the floor. Hold for five seconds and then relax. Flatten your back, pulling your belly button toward the floor. Hold for five seconds and then relax. Repeat three times and slowly work up to 20/30.
4. Cat stretch
"Kneel on your knees and hands. Slowly arch your back, pulling your belly up as you bring your head down. Then slowly let your back and belly sag toward the floor as you bring your head up. Repeat three times morning and evening.
5. The Bridge
"Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor keeping your shoulders and head relaxed on the floor and tightening the muscles in your belly and buttocks. Then raise your hips to form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Take three deep breaths whilst in that position (if you can). Start again. Repeat three times over and slowly build up over the days to 20/30."
A mind-body approach to releasing back tension
But remember, while physical movement is important, so is looking after your overall wellbeing. "Mood contributes to back pain and back pain can worsen mood. It’s a vicious cycle! The Deep Heat, Deep Freeze and Deep Relief research found that 65% of Brits say their mood is made worse by back pain," Margo points out.
Read more: I spent a year in chronic pain before discovering how to use the mind-body connection to cure it (Yahoo Life UK, 10-min read)
"Poor mental health and stress can cause tension in the back leading to stiffness and pain. This is due to the increased release of cortisol which distorts the inflammatory response causing pain. Poor mental health can also increase the body’s sensitivity to back tension and pain. Blood vessels may also constrict under stress leading to reduced blood flow to muscles and pain."
It's important to treat back pain as soon as possible, to prevent worsening symptoms and mood. Aside from physical treatments and being active, this may include general ways to relieve stress and boost mental health, including mindfulness, prioritising sleep, living a healthy lifestyle, or writing about how you feel as a means of release.
It's first important to consult your doctor about any symptoms of pain and to rule out anything serious, as well as to ask for advice about relieving pain in a way that's right and safe for you.
Watch: How to prevent back pain