About 80% of people will experience at least one episode of lower back pain in their lives. In fact, lower back pain has become the number one cause for disability on a world-wide scale, according to the most recent research available. Back pain accounts for a vast number of medical visits, drug therapies, specialty referrals, advanced tests, and unnecessary hospitalizations and surgeries.
Most cases of back pain are uncomplicated and require no expensive interventions or therapies. I am also of the opinion that most cases of back pain, whether acute or not, are preventable. Here are a few tips to prevent back pain from the very beginning.
Regular exercise which stresses flexibility, core strength, abdominal strength and cardiovascular fitness can prevent most injuries to the spine that involve external loading forces. If your spine is stronger and more resilient, it can withstand extra forces placed upon it without the joints or discs being damaged.
Improper lifting can account for many spinal injuries and consequent back pain. When you lift something, get close to the load and bend your knees and hips while keeping your spine straight. While lifting, use the legs while exhaling and pulling the abdomen inwards. When you lift, try to keep the load at waist level without transferring it to a higher place. When you move, do not turn your spine, move your feet while keeping your spine straight. When placing the object down, do not bend at the waist, simply keep your spine straight and bend your knees and hips to lower the load to the ground.
While sleeping, try not to sleep on your stomach or in the face-down position. Instead, try to sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees or on your side with a pillow between your legs. While on your side, make sure your head is aligned with the rest of your spine. At work, make sure that your chair properly supports you with an adequate back rest and two arm rests. The chair should be adjustable and capable of swivelling.
When you sit at your work station, your back should be straight, your shoulders slightly back, your elbows bent at 90 degrees with your chin parallel to the floor. Your nose should be pointed directly at the center of your computer screen. If you talk on the phone, try to use the speaker option or a headset.
If you have to sit or stand for long periods, try taking a break every 20 minutes. This allows you to move around and get your blood flowing. If you stand at work, try using a portable foam surface to stand on and every 20 minutes alternatively place each foot on a six inch high flat object (such as a phone book or wooden block). This will reduce the physical stress on your lower back.
Stress is a major contributor to the development of lower back pain. When you are under stress for extended periods of time, your muscles will be tighter and your posture often changes to compensate which can place you at risk.
In addition, the loss of sleep, avoidance of physical activity, and poor lifestyle habits associated with stressful situations can precipitate a painful event in those who have previously experienced back pain. During periods of high stress, try deep breathing exercises, meditation, and modifying your activities around your present situation.
My recommendation is to have a full-body massage from a registered massage therapist at least once per month. This is a great way to practice prevention, feel great and improve your quality of life.
Gillespie, D. L., “7 Surprising Fixes for Back Pain,” web site, Nov.12, 2013; http://ca.shine.yahoo.com/blogs/healthy-living/7-surprising-fixes-back-pain-134900501.html, last accessed Nov.12, 2013.