We all have back pain at some point or another. For some, it is a few days event and for others, it is chronic and life changing. If your pain is the result of a trauma or accident, you should be under a doctor’s care. But, if you twisted just so, sat too long, lifted too much or bended too far, there is good news. Back pain can be preventable and it isn’t difficult to achieve. As with anything new or different, you should use caution or seek advice if you need it. But let’s look at some basic prevention tips and exercises that will help.
- Exercise—get up and get moving. Muscles are meant to move and if you aren’t in shape, you are more likely to get injured. Exercise also keeps your joints fluid and your weight down.
- Eat right—healthy eating habits will help maintain good weight but also reduce stress on the body.
- Sleep right—side sleepers have the best chance at good posture. Back and stomach sleepers will put more strain on the spine. Also, getting enough, restful sleep keeps the body in rhythm.
- Posture—if you sit all day at work or text and view your phone all day, you begin to get misaligned and the natural curvature of the spine gets stressed. Find an ergonomically correct workstation, break up long periods of sitting and do plenty of stretching.
- Reduce Stress—stress just isn’t good for you! It causes muscles to tense to the point of pain. Try activities like yoga, meditation and deep breathing to maintain balance.
- Quite smoking—not only does it contribute to the likelihood of contracting cancer, it can be a cause or exacerbate persistent back pain. While it is not exactly clear, one theory is that narrowed blood vessels from smoking results in less oxygen and nutrients which can deprive the spine of what is needed.
Partial Crunch--Lie with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross arms over your chest or put hands behind your neck. Tighten stomach muscles and raise your shoulders off the floor. Breathe out as you raise your shoulders. Don’t lead with your elbows or use arms to pull your neck off the floor. Hold for a second, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 8 to 12 times. Proper form prevents excessive stress on your low back. Your feet, tailbone, and lower back should remain in contact with the mat at all times.
Hamstring Stretch--Lie on your back and bend one knee. Loop a towel under the ball of your foot. Straighten your knee and slowly pull back on the towel. You should feel a gentle stretch down the back of your leg. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Do 2 to 4 times for each leg.
Wall-Sit--Stand 10 to 12 inches from the wall, then lean back until your back is flat against the wall. Slowly slide down until your knees are slightly bent, pressing your lower back into the wall. Hold for a count of 10, then carefully slide back up the wall. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Press-up Back Extensions--Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Push with your hands so your shoulders begin to lift off the floor. If it’s comfortable, put your elbows on the floor directly under your shoulders and hold this position for several seconds.
Bird Dog--Start on your hands and knees, and tighten your stomach muscles. Lift and extend one leg behind you. Keep hips level. Hold for 5 seconds, and then switch to the other leg. Repeat 8 to 12 times for each leg, and try to lengthen the time you hold each lift. Try lifting and extending your opposite arm for each repetition. This exercise is a great way to learn how to stabilize the low back during movement of the arms and legs. While doing this exercise don’t let the lower back muscles sag. Only raise the limbs to heights where the low back position can be maintained.
You have some control on how to reduce the risk of back pain by making some simple lifestyle changes. But if you do suffer, don’t ignore the pain—talk to your doctor about the symptoms and what you should do to treat.
Remember, you really have nothing if you don’t have your health. Take some time in this new year to prevent pain.