How to Prevent Back Pain

How to Prevent Back Pain

How to Prevent Back Pain 

Though it can be difficult to entirely prevent back pain, you will reduce the likelihood of injuring yourself by following these tips.  If you are already suffering from low back pain they can help prevent a recurrence.

Work smart – one of the biggest risks for back injuries is repetitive bending and twisting.  Learn how to bend using your hips rather than your back.   Make sure that when you pivot, either standing or sitting in a rolling chair, you turn with your whole body, not just your trunk.

Posture, posture, posture – There has been a lot of news lately about how unhealthy prolonged sitting is for our general health. It also is unhealthy for our backs.  The soft tissue in our back, i.e. muscles and ligaments, gradually lengthen while they remain in one position.  This is a phenomenon called ‘creep’.  This gradual elongation can begin to cause stiffness and pain once you are in a position for too long.  So stand and sit properly, use a proper chair and change positions every 15-20 minutes.  Consider a sit/stand desk if you have an office job to allow frequent changes in position.

Avoid unusual strenuous activity – It is common to injure the back after or during unusually strenuous activity, i.e. gardening all weekend in the spring or shoveling after a heavy snowfall.  Don’t push yourself to exhaustion.  Make sure to take breaks during an activity and reverse the position you have just been working in.

Maintain a healthy weight – Carrying excess weight puts more strain on the spine.

Regular exercise - Regular exercise is one of the best methods to prevent low back pain.  Regular exercise should include a cardiovascular component like walking, hiking, biking, etc.  This should be done at least 3 times per week for 30-40 minutes.  You should work up a sweat and huff and puff a little.  Develop a stretching routine that helps you work properly and allows you to participate in your sport with minimal strain.  Sitting and bending properly requires good hip flexibility in the muscles in the back of the hip.  Walking and running require good flexibility through the back of the hip.  Strengthening exercises are also important and should work all the major muscles groups.  Make sure that the exercise is at an appropriate level for your fitness.

Exercise sensibly – Regular exercise is crucial for good health and keeping your back healthy.  However make sure that the exercise is at an appropriate level.  Unfortunately many people are so enthusiastic at starting an exercise program that they can injure themselves.   Take an honest evaluation of your health and proceed in a sensible manner.  A ‘good rule of thumb’ is that you shouldn’t increase either the intensity or length of an exercise session by more than 10% at a time.

Do those exercises properly – Learn how to do strengthening exercises with correct technique.  Physiotherapists spend a lot of time working with clients on how to perform exercises properly and at an appropriate level of challenge.  Squats, dead lifts and core exercises are the three most improperly performed exercises.

Activate the core – A combination of old injuries, postural habits, the sports and activities we take part in, our posture and body type can result in muscle imbalances.   These muscle imbalances can have the effect of not allowing us to activate our core properly.  Very often there are muscles that don’t activate correctly and need specific exercise to be re-activated.  Working with a manual physical therapist can help you identify what are the best specific exercises to learn to reactivate your core. 

Stop smoking – Recent studies have concluded that that development of back pain was significantly associated with smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.  See your doctor for help in stopping smoking if you need it.

Sleep – If you are suffering from poor sleep you aren’t utilizing your natural recharging system.  A good sleep restores our body’s chemicals that help us stay healthy. You can try some of the positions mentioned in this article.  Try to avoid napping during the day, as it can disturb nighttime sleeping.  Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol close to bedtime.  Stay away from large meals close to your sleep time. Get regular exercise, as it is important for a proper sleep cycle.  However, strenuous exercise should be avoided in the evening. Relaxation exercise like gentle yoga, gentle stretching and relaxation breathing can be done before bed to help initiate a restful sleep.  Make sure to get outside in the daytime.  Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Avoid using electronics such as computers, laptops, phones and iPads before bed. These devices have been linked to altering our sleep pattern by reducing a sleep chemical called melatonin and increasing our brain activity.

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