Preventing back pain
Most people think sitting up straight or lifting from the knees is all they need to do to prevent back pain, however, there is much more you can do to promote good back health.
The most helpful thing you can do to prevent and manage back pain is keep your back (and the rest of your body) fit and healthy by leading an active lifestyle. Regular participation in exercise can help maintain an active lifestyle, but there are other things you can do. For example, take the stairs instead of the lift, go for a walk in your lunch break, get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of your journey, take your bicycle to do the shopping, etc. All these little changes can make a big difference to your overall physical activity level.
There is a huge range of sports, exercises and activities that you can do to help keep you fit and healthy. The most important thing is that you choose something you enjoy. Some exercise such as swimming, Pilates, walking and hydrotherapy are very popular among people with back pain, but there is no hard evidence that any one type of exercise is better than another. Remember that you only get the benefits from exercise if you do it regularly, probably at lest two or three times per week for 30 to 45 minutes. Increase your level of activity gradually doing a little often rather than occasional bouts of heavy activity. This will be easier to do if you enjoy the activity so pick something that you like.
Your spine is an incredible structure that combines strength and flexibility. Looking sideways on you can see that every spine has an S-shape;with variations seen between individuals. For example some people have very flat S-shapes while others have more curvy S-shapes. Whatever the exact shape of your spine, it is designed for movement. This is why we often say that the best posture, is the next posture. Any posture will start to become uncomfortable after some time and regularly changing your posture is recommended.
Tips to help you maintain good posture:
- Keep your head aligned with/right on top of your spine
- When sitting, ensure you have enough support for your lower back by perhaps using a lumbar roll
- Keep your shoulders relaxed
- When sitting, have your upper legs slightly sloping down
- Try to avoid slouching for long periods of time
Being overweight puts extra pressure on all of your body's structures particularly your spine. Over times this many increase your risk of developing back pain and is why keeping a healthy weight is also important for your back health.
Smoking not only increases your risk of developing heart diseases and cancer, but can also add to your risk of developing back pain. Nicotine is known to block the very small blood vessels in your back restricting the blood flow and nutrition to the structures of your back.
Lifting and manual handling
Lifting heavy objects, especially when you have to do this repetitively, can increase your risk of developing back pain. To prevent this, you should decide how to best lift and carry goods.
Key tips on lifting and manual handling:
- When carrying or lifting objects, keep the load close to your body
- Try to avoid lifting while twisting at the same time
- When lifting, lift from the knees and not the back. Get as close as possible to the item you have to lift and make sure your stance is stable
- Ask for help when lifting and carrying heavy or awkwardly shaped items
- Use lifting tools when available; make sure you know to use them properly