Spine Health Tips
Many cases of back pain are preventable. Unfortunately, most people do not worry about their back until it is already hurting them. That is why it is important to start treating your back properly right away. The following are some steps you can take to protect your back.
Having the correct posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping is an important part of keeping your back pain-free. Many people spend their entire workdays sitting or standing, and too much of either can lead to back pain. There are several ways you can protect your back.
While sitting, make sure your lower back is getting enough support. If possible, you should sit in an ergonomically designed chair. Otherwise, try placing a pillow or rolled up towel behind your lower back to keep you upright and prevent slouching.
If you sit for long periods of time, get up to walk around about every hour, arching your back gently and trying a few simple stretches. Even if you are driving, stop as often as possible to stretch. Do not carry bulky items, such as wallets, in your back pockets while you are sitting as this can place extra stress on the back.
If you stand all day, have a small stool handy to prop up one foot at a time. If possible, lean against a wall or counter.
For your resting hours, buy a mattress with good back support that is also comfortable for you. Lying on your back with a small pillow under your knees is the ideal sleeping position. If that is uncomfortable, try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees. Sleeping on your stomach places too much stress on your back, but, if you must, be sure to place a small pillow underneath your abdomen.
Improper lifting of heavy objects causes many back injuries. People may not lift properly for a long time and realize it only when the back is damaged enough to cause pain. If you must lift a heavy object, take some time to prepare. First, make sure that you can carry the load by lifting up a corner and testing it. Then, determine where you are going to move the object and choose the shortest route possible.
A few important tips when lifting or moving a load:
- When bending down, always bend a your knees—never at your waist.
- Keep the object close to your body.
- Do not twist your body.
- Avoid lifting over your head or over an obstruction.
- When lifting a heavy object below chest level, always tighten your abdomen muscles to place less of the load on your spine.
- When moving a heavy object, push it instead of pulling it.
- Whenever possible, use a cart to carry your luggage.
- If the load is too heavy, ask for help.
Simple stretches throughout the day can help make your back more flexible and strong. Stretches should not be painful or increase your blood pressure. Ask your physician or therapist
Here are some brief stretches that will help relieve pressure on the back, especially if you bend or lift frequently, or sit for long periods of time:
- While standing, place your hands on your lower back and lean backward gently, without tipping your head backward.
- Stretch your hamstrings, the muscles in the back of your thighs that help keep your back mobile. While sitting or lying on your back, stretch one leg forward and reach out and grab your foot while bending the other leg and holding your thigh.
Exercising your back muscles can strengthen and protect them, helping to prevent injuries. Abdominal exercises can also help keep your back strong. You can ask your doctor or physical therapist to show you some special back strengthening exercises.
While many forms of exercise can be helpful to the back, some sports, such as golf, tennis, racquetball, and football, can be harmful if not played properly. These sports place pressure on the spine because they involve frequent twisting, bending, or impact.
When playing these sports, be sure to warm up beforehand to get your muscles ready. If you already have back problems, ask your doctor what sports you can play and what special precautions you should take.
There are several other changes you can make to decrease your risk for back pain:
- Lose weight: Since excess weight can pull the spine out of alignment and cause a back injury, it is important to keep your weight down. Do some aerobic exercises such as bicycling, walking, or running to help you lose excess pounds.
- Eat healthy: It is important to maintain a healthy diet that is high in fruits, grains, and vegetables. In addition to causing weight gain, a poor diet can also make your back weaker and more susceptible to injury.
- Lower stress: Stress can create muscle tension, causing a loss in flexibility that can lead to back pain. To reduce stress, try exercise, yoga, meditation, getting more sleep, or listening to music.
- Stop Smoking: Smoking puts you at increased risk for back problems since your blood has trouble delivering oxygen to working tissues, delaying tissue healing, making your back weaker.