Back Pain

 

Back Pain Prevention


It's been said before and—at least in the case of back pain—it couldn't be more accurate. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Although no amount of prevention will keep you from ever encountering back pain again, learning and practicing good habits and proper body mechanics will go a long way in reducing your chances of experiencing back pain.

Exercise “Back” to Health

Regular exercise helps to strengthen back muscles and prevent injury. (You knew this one was coming, didn't you?) Be sure to stick to low-impact, aerobic activities that don't jolt or strain your back: walking and swimming are two of the best. Exercises that increase abdominal core and back strength, such as abdominal crunches, Yoga and Pilates, are particularly helpful. Always start with a gentle warm-up, stretch your muscles, exercise at your higher pace, gradually lower your rate of exertion until you are complete, then stretch again. Also, remember to use proper form. When in doubt, consult a trainer or physical therapist. 

Keep in mind: No exercise, stretch or posture is right for everyone: If a stretch or exercise causes pain, stop doing it. Here are some back strengthening exercises from the National Institute of Health.

Back Pain Exercises

You don't need a lot of time to improve the strength and flexibility of your back. In fact, give it just 10 minutes a day. With a few exercises, you can prevent a lifetime of low back pain.

Partial Sit-up

This exercise strengthens your stomach muscles:

  • Lie on your back and keep both knees bent with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor, while holding your hands across your chest.
  • Perform up to 30 repititions
Bridges

This exercise is great for strengthening your low back:

  • Lie on your back with both knees bent, keeping your feet flat on the floor.
  • With your arms lying at your sides, tighten your stomach muscles, squeeze the buttocks, and slowly lift your hips into the air.
  • Hold for 5 seconds and and then slowly return the buttocks to the floor.
  • Repeat 20 times.
Wall Slide

This strengthens your back and leg muscles:

  • Stand with your back against a wall and place your feet slightly apart.
  • Slide into a half-sit.
  • Hold as long as you can and then slide back up.
  • Repeat 5 times.

 

Stand Tall

Maintain a neutral pelvic position. Standing for a long time puts strain on your lower back. If you must stand for a long time, try to alternate placing your feet (few minutes each) on a low stool or step to help relieve the strain on your lower back.


Good Posture Helps Prevent Backpain

Sit Up

Choose a seat with good lower back support. Arm rests are also helpful in relieving strain on your lower back. Find a chair that helps you maintain the natural curve of your spine, but that also discourages slouching and unnatural back positions. (Some people find placing a towel or small pillow in the small of their back helps them to maintain the spinal curve essential to good posture). Your knees and hips should be level, in a line that's parallel to the floor. Avoid crossing the legs. Place your computer monitor at eye level.

Drive with your knees slightly bent and back arched. On long car trips, stop frequently and get out and do some walking.

For more info about choosing an ergonomic chair see this guide from the National Institute of Health: http://www.nih.gov/od/ors/ds/ergonomics/ergochair.html


Lift Smart, Move Smart

Use your legs, not your back to lift heavy objects. Keep your back straight and tall: bend only at the knees. Hold the load so it's close to the core of your body. Do not lift and twist simultaneously. Movement should be balanced and symmetrical. We get into trouble when we move (especially carrying things) in “more than one plane.”  An example of this is bending down to tie your shoes and, while bent down, turning and reaching for something out of the way.


Lift objects with the proper technique to
prevent back pain

 

Sleep Smart

Use a medium-firm to firm mattress. Use pillows for support, but don't put the neck at a severe angle. Experts recommend small pillow to fill the curvature of the neck and two thick pillows beneath the knees. Place a pillow to support the head no thicker than is enough to keep the neck parallel to the bed. If sleeping on your side, place a pillow(s) between the knees and ankles thick enough to keep the legs parallel. You should also avoid sleeping on your stomach.  But if you really love sleeping on your stomach, then place a thick pillow across your waist line to reduce the strain on the low back. Use a thin pillow or nothing at all beneath your head to minimize the backward strain on the neck.

Maintain a Healthy Weight.

Being overweight—particularly if the fat is in the abdominal region--places an enormous amount of strain on the back.  Obese people's backs tend to heal more slowly than the backs of people at a healthy weight.

Drop Those Butts

Those cigarettes aren't just hurting your lungs: they could end up causing problems in your back, as well. Smoking deprives the spine of oxygen which is essential in back health and healing. It may seem odd but it's the  truth: put down those cigarettes, help your back.

Checklist to Prevent Back Pain

To summarize the methods of back pain prevention, here is a checklist of what's most important to remember:

Back Pain Prevention Checklist
Get regular exercise
Maintain proper standing posture
Choose a desk chair which offers good support and maintain a healthy sitting posture.
Lift with the legs and knees, not the back.
Sleep on a medium-firm mattress using pillows for support.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Quit smoking

 

So, what do you do if you back hurts right now? Read on to understand your back pain treatment options.

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