In 2012, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that over 50% (125 million) of adults reported having one or more musculoskeletal pain disorders. This includes lower back pain without sciatica, sciatica with back pain, neck pain, non-arthritic joint pain or related conditions, and arthritic conditions.
With these whopping statistics, it's important to take a look at how we can prevent symptoms, reduce pain intensity, restore daily functioning, and cope with residual pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may be able to avoid back pain or prevent its recurrence by improving your physical condition while learning and practicing proper body mechanics.
To keep your back healthy and strong:
1. Exercise. Regular low-impact aerobic activities — those that don't strain or jolt your back — can increase strength and endurance in your back and allow your muscles to function better. Walking and swimming are good choices.
2. Build muscle strength and flexibility. Abdominal and back muscle exercises (core-strengthening exercises) help condition these muscles so that they work together like a natural corset for your back. Flexibility in your hips and upper legs aligns your pelvic bones to improve how your back feels.
3. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight strains back muscles. If you're overweight, trimming down can prevent back pain.
Use proper body mechanics:
4. Stand smart. Maintain a neutral pelvic position. If you must stand for long periods, place one foot on a low footstool to take some of the load off your lower back. Alternate feet. Good posture can reduce the stress on back muscles.
5. Sit smart. Choose a seat with good lower back support, armrests and a swivel base. Consider placing a pillow or rolled towel in the small of your back to maintain its normal curve. Keep your knees and hips level. Change your position frequently, at least every half-hour and stand or walk for a few minutes every 1-2 hours.
6. Lift smart. Avoid heavy lifting, if possible, but if you must lift something heavy, let your legs do the work. Keep your back straight — no twisting — and bend only at the knees. Hold the load close to your body. Find a lifting partner if the object is heavy or awkward.
If you plan to begin an exercise program or find that certain movements in your workout continue to aggravate your back or other joints, a consultation with a Certified Personal Trainer or Physical Therapist can save you the backache. They can assess and teach you correct movement patterns to maximize strength while preserving your joints. Contact me for your free phone consultation.