Is Your Back Pain Back?
Just about everybody will suffer from back pain sooner or later. Low back strain can be caused by:
- Extreme physical exertion.
- Bending or crouching repeatedly.
- Lifting heavy objects if you are not in shape.
Keep in mind that low back strain can't be blamed for all back pain. There are many other causes, such as slipped discs, pinched nerves and infections.
Here are a few ways we bring on back pain, and some simple ways to take care of them before the pain gets too bad.
Bottom of the ninth, tie game and you’re rounding third heading for home, and throw everything you got at the catcher. That’s ok when you’re in your teens, but when you’re over 30 and it’s a company softball game... it’s a bit much. You’re head thinks you’re still an athlete, but you quit training years ago, and as a result, your back suffers.
Don’t kid yourself, weekend projects around the house can also set you up for injury, especially if you were idle for most of the week. Cleaning out the garage, bending over a workbench, or spending hours in the yard or garden can be just as hard on your back as anything you do on the playing field.
Lift With Your Legs:
Take it from the UPS deliveryman or the person stacking bags of mulch at Home Depot: improper bending and lifting causes back injury.
The Basics: Here are the basic principles that you should use for safe lifting.
- First engage your abs to help support your back.
- Bend your knees and keep your back straight. Don't bend at your waist.
- Keep the object close to you. The farther away you hold it from your body, the more it stresses your back.
- Never hold an item higher than your armpit or lower than your knees.
- Don't move something that weighs more than 20% of your body weight.
- Don't pivot, twist, or turn while lifting. Point your feet at the item you're lifting and face it as you pick it up. Change direction with your feet, not your waist.
Move Things With Your Head:
If you’re doing chores around the house but your head is someplace else, you run a good risk of hurting your back. Simple tasks like taking out the trash or washing the dishes can get your spine bent out of shape if your body isn't ready. What you’re doing doesn’t even have to be exhaustive or strenuous. If your mind isn’t focused on what you're doing, you could be in trouble. Think about the times you’ve worked all day, your mind and body are both tired. Then you reach for something and twist the wrong way – snap!
Train yourself: Be aware of your core muscles and keep them engaged.
A simple way to do that is to pull your navel toward your spine and imagine you're wearing a belt that pulls the sides of your abs inward. Doing that throughout the day -- and especially when lifting or bending -- strengthens and supports your back.
Get Off Your Butt:
Our society sits more than any other. We sit to drive to work, we sit again at work, we sit to eat, we sit going home, then we sit in front of the TV. Your back wasn’t made for that.
According to WebMD, your discs are spongy and cushion the vertebrae in your spine, but discs have blood supply. When you move, fluid circulates through the discs. When you sit still, the fluid is wrung out, so you're depriving them of nutrition spending so much time on your behind.
Studies have also shown that sitting puts more pressure on your spine than lying down or standing up. Your spine needs nutrition, like the rest of your body, and movement is the food it thrives on.
Most of us have poor posture. We sit and lean forward to look at our computer screens. This makes you lock your pelvis and flex your spine, putting pressure on the front of the vertebrae, where your discs are. The more you arch forward and exaggerate the curve of the spine, the more pressure you're putting on your discs.
Necessary Evil: Unless you can get a standing desk or walk to work, you're going to sit. So try these tactics to lessen its impact on your back:
- Get up and move at least once every 20 minutes, unless you're driving. Set your screensaver to remind you; make a habit of going for a drink of water; when you answer the phone, stand up to stretch and change positions.
- Keep your spine properly aligned by holding reading material at eye level (when sitting or standing) rather than bending over. Don't lean over a desk or table to work. Whenever possible, your spine should be straight.
- Choose a chair that supports your back. Adjust the chair so that your feet stay flat on the floor. If the chair doesn't support your lower back's curve, place a rolled towel or small pillow behind your lower back. Remove anything from your back pockets, especially a wallet, if you'll be seated for long periods of time.
The good news is most back pain should lessen after 48 hours with a nonprescription pain reliever. But in some cases, your pain could require urgent care.
If your back pain keeps coming back, see a medical professional. You may have begun to rupture a disc or have another injury that could require treatment.