Eight out of every 10 people will have back pain at one point or another. While a percentage of those are due to traumatic injury or a congenital condition, most back pain is due to overuse of weak, deconditioned muscles. The good news is that this means much back pain is preventable. These five simple tips will help you prevent that nagging back pain, or avoid it altogether if you are lucky enough not to suffer from it now.
Strategy 1: Proper Lifting Technique
Don’t try to lift objects too heavy for you, and always use proper lifting technique. You want to lift with your legs and not your back, as your legs are much stronger. Make sure you pull in your stomach muscles and keep your upper body straight, without bending at the waist or rounding your lower back. Try not to look down as this can cause your shoulders to round forward. Keep the object as close to your body as possible, and do not twist when lifting.
Strategy 2: Good Sitting Posture
Sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper position and height for the task. Keep your shoulders back. Monitor your sitting position often and periodically walk around the office or gently stretch muscles to relieve tension. Do this by standing, placing the palms of your hands on your lower back, and bending back slightly, looking at the ceiling as you exhale.
You can purchase a lumbar support to place on your chair, or a pillow or rolled-up towel placed behind the small of your back can provide some lumbar support. If you must sit for a long period of time, rest your feet on a low stool or a stack of books.
When sitting, try to avoid sofas and chairs with thick cushioning as these can force your lower back out of line. Don’t sit with your hips out in front of your shoulders, as this will cause you to round your lower back which can lead to back pain.
Strategy 3: Adjust Your Sleeping Position
Sleep on your side, and to reduce any curve in your spine place a pillow between your knees. This will keep your top leg from pulling your pelvis out of line, which in turn causes your spine to be out of line. If you sleep on your back, place a pillow underneath your knees. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, and always sleep on a firm surface.
You spend almost a third of your life asleep, so your mattress is not a purchase you want to make solely based on price. The right sleeping surface can make a world of difference in how your back feels every day.
Strategy 4: Quit Smoking
If you smoke, quit. Most people don’t realize this, but smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine and causes the spinal discs to degenerate. Not that you really needed another reason to quit smoking…
Strategy 5: Strengthen Your Core Muscles
As I said, most back pain is caused by weakened and deconditioned core (abs and back) muscles. Correcting this can do wonders, and is easier than most people think. Core exercises such as those contained in my program “A Healthy Back in Ten Minutes a Day” can be done without any equipment, and can be done anywhere. And, a routine of core-strengthening exercises such as Planks, Side Bridges, Back Extensions, and others can easily be added to your existing exercise program, or done by themselves in less time than it takes to read the daily paper.
Of course, following any period of prolonged inactivity, you must begin any exercise or fitness program slowly, and only after consulting with your primary health care provider. If you have any known medical condition or take any medications, it is imperative that you check with your doctor prior to making changes in your activity level.
There you go. If you employ these some or all of these simple tips, your back will start to feel better quickly. Even though I live with 2 herniated disks, these tips, along with the basic exercises I teach in “A Healthy Back in Ten Minutes a Day”, keep me virtually pain-free. They can do the same for you.