Stand up to Back Pain: Tips for prevention
It’s the odd twinge above your tailbone when sitting too long at your desk. It’s the strain felt between your shoulders after lifting a heavy box. It’s the dull ache in your lower back following a long run. If you’ve experienced any of these aches or pains, you’re not alone.
“Eighty percent of all adults have had or will have back pain at some point in their life,” says Stephanie Striet, MD, an internal medicine physician with The Christ Hospital Medical Associates.
Whether it’s excruciating or simply irritating, back pain can be caused by a combination of factors. “Most back pain is what we call musculoskeletal,” explains Dr. Striet. “That means in most cases, the back pain results from an abnormal interaction between the muscles, bones, and nerves of the back, which can have many causes.”
Poor posture, excess weight, stress, improper lifting or exercise techniques, and even age and genetics can contribute to back pain. The good news? You can avoid back pain and injury by following five simple tips:
- Get your weight in check. Extra weight puts strain on your back and joints. Keep within 10 pounds of your ideal weight to keep your back healthy. “My primary recommendation is to try to maintain a healthy weight and some type of physical activity in your daily life,” says Dr. Striet. Unsure if your weight is healthy? Find your body mass index (BMI) to see if you fall within a healthy range.
Hit the gym. Not only can regular exercise help control weight gain, it can improve the strength and flexibility of your muscles and decrease the likelihood of back injury. At the gym or at home, Dr. Striet recommends trying some simple back exercises to increase your flexibility and strength or alleviate any existing back pain.
- Take a stand. Bad posture, such as slouching or standing hunched over, can lead to muscle fatigue and injury. In the workplace, take a good look at your surroundings and try to adjust things to fit your comfort level. For example, when sitting, keep your knees slightly higher than your hips to provide low back support.
- Try to relax. Stress can cause the muscles to become tense, making them more susceptible to injury, aches and pains. If you’re experiencing stress-related pain, develop coping mechanisms to help ease your body and your mind. Try a relaxation class such as Tai Chi or yoga.
- Lift properly. When moving and carrying heavy loads, make sure to lift with your legs. Lifting incorrectly can lead to serious back strains. “If you’re doing strenuous activity that you don’t normally do, such as moving, the proper lifting technique is to engage your legs rather than your back, and keep the object as close to your body as possible,” Dr. Striet says.
When to see a physician
Although these methods could prevent and even resolve back pain, if your pain worsens or gets in the way of your quality of life, make an appointment with your primary care physician. Along with specialists at The Christ Hospital’s Spine Institute, your doctor can determine if therapeutic or surgical treatment is the best option.
To find a physician to help you cope with and treat back pain, call 877-904-4YOU or visit www.TheChristHospital.com.