Almost everyone will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain varies from one person to the next. It can range from mild to severe, and can be acute or chronic, depending on the cause.
Preventing all back pain may not be possible. We cannot avoid the normal wear and tear on our spines that goes along with aging. There are, however, things we can do to lessen the impact of low back problems and adjust aspects of our daily routine to better prevent acute injuries from occurring.
Having a healthy lifestyle is the first way to prevent back pain.
Combine exercise, like walking or swimming, with specific core-strengthening exercises to keep the muscles in your back and abdomen strong and flexible.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts added pressure on your spine and lower back. Quick weight gain without adjusting your daily exercise regime will usually cause problems in the low back, as the muscles require time to strengthen as your weight increases (body builders, pregnancy, etc.)
- Avoid Smoking
Both the smoke and the nicotine cause your bones, and more specifically, your spine to age faster than normal. Smoking is a known catalyst of osteoporosis, which is will cause weakening of the vertebrae.
- Proper Posture
Good posture is important to avoiding low back problems. How you stand, sit, and lift things has an increasing effect on your spine health.
- Drink Plenty of Water
Water is required for healthy function in every cell of the human body. The spine, like all other joints, requires lubricant to allow pain-free movement. Drinking enough water each day can increase your body's natural lubricant production.
Guidelines for Proper Lifting
- Plan ahead what you want to do and do not be in a hurry.
- Position yourself close to the object you want to lift.
- Separate your feet shoulder-width apart to give yourself a solid base of support.
- Bend at the knees.
- Tighten your stomach muscles.
- Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up.
- If an object is too heavy or is an awkward shape, do not try to lift it by yourself. Get help.
Picking Up a Light Object
To lift a very light object from the floor, such as a piece of paper, lean over the object, slightly bend one knee and extend the other leg behind you. Hold on to a nearby chair or table for support as you reach down to the object, as necessary.
Picking Up a Heavy Object
Whether you are lifting a heavy laundry basket or a heavy box in your garage, remember to get close to the object, bend at the knees, and lift with your leg muscles. Do not bend at your waist.
When lifting luggage, stand alongside of the luggage, bend at your knees, grasp the handle and straighten up. Do your best to keep your stomach tight while lifting the object. This anatomical act of checks-and-balances will allow your core to split the opposing force between both sides of the body, and therefore, lessening the stress on the back, alone. The checks-and-balances system includes the quadriceps and hamstrings, the biceps and triceps; or in other words, muscles that pull the body in the opposite direction from the other.
Holding An Object
While you are holding the object, keep your knees slightly bent to maintain your balance. If you have to move the object to one side, avoid twisting your body or leaning backward. Point your toes in the direction you want to move and pivot in that direction. Keep the object close to you when moving, and again, keeping your stomach tight will lessen the stress on the low back and naturally force you to keep from leaning backward.
Placing an Object on a Shelf
If you must place an object on a shelf, move as close as possible to the shelf. Spread your feet in a wide stance, positioning one foot in front of the other to give you a solid base of support. Do not lean forward and do not fully extend your arms while holding the object in your hands.
If the shelf is chest high, move close to the shelf and place your feet apart and one foot forward. Lift the object chest high, keep your elbows at your side and position your hands so you can push the object up and on to the shelf. Remember to tighten your stomach muscles before lifting.
Supporting Your Back While Sitting
When sitting, keep your back in a normal, slightly arched position. Make sure your chair supports your lower back. Keep your head and shoulders erect. Make sure your working surface is at the proper height so you don't have to lean forward. Once an hour, if possible, stand, and stretch. Place your hands on your lower back and gently arch backward.
Allow yourself plenty of opportunities to move and stretch. The recommended break time for students is 5 minutes for every 30 minutes studying, or 10 minutes for every 60 minutes. It's proven to improve cognitive function and memory, as well as relieve tension in the muscles of the body. Think about it - how many times have you been "in the zone" writing a letter or typing an email, and when you press that send button, you feel your shoulders, neck, and back relax? That tension over time will cause tight muscles. When the muscles are tight, they pull on the bones. When they pull on the bones so much, they can move the bones slightly out of place - but slightly is enough to feel it. Some companies are now allowing employees to inquire about a standing desk - one that can raise if you'd prefer to stand for part of your day. Make inquiries with your HR department if this interests you!
Need Help Adjusting?
If you suffer from acute or chronic back pain, talk to your doctor about the possibility of starting physical therapy with us at Champion Performance and Physical Therapy. If some of these qualities sound oh-too-familiar and think you could use some overall strengthening exercises for your core to simply improve your quality of life, you are welcome to contact us and we'll see if you are eligible to come in we can see if you qualify to come in without a prescription from your doctor for a simple evaluation and exercise plan.