Oh, My Aching Back! (Part Two)
In Part One we covered the most common causes of back pain and the three most frequent injuries that are the source of this pain. Now we move on to tried and true, trust-worthy prevention tips and techniques to reduce the chances that you’ll ever need to utter these painful words… “Oh, my aching back!”
Here is what you can do to prevent a back injury:
Improve Your Sitting and Standing Posture:
When you are sitting –
- Keep your head and shoulders erect.
- Stay close to what you are working on.
- Make sure the lumbar curve is supported.
- Place your feet firmly on the floor.
- Hip/trunk angle should be >90°.
- Keep an even weight on your buttocks/thighs.
When you are standing –
- Maintain your head in a level position.
- Chin and shoulders should be held back.
- Assure a neutral low back area.
- Avoid locking your knees.
- Wear good shoes with arch support.
- Keep this neutral posture as close to the ideal as possible throughout the day, including at home. (Recliners aren’t always the best way to relax your low back.)
- Use work heights that promote a neutral spine.
- Difficulty achieving and maintaining a neutral spine can be an indication of poor habits over time and/or abdominal/gluteal weakness.
Improve Body Mechanics – Bending & Lifting:
Hip Hinging – Learning to bend from the hips is a key strategy to prevent back injuries. Hip hinging is used with forward reaching, bending forward, and power lifting. Hip hinging is easier with a flexible spine, flexible legs, and clothing that fits well (not too tight).
General Rules for Lifting –
- Keep objects as close to you as possible – an object at an arm’s length is ten times as heavy on the spine as an object close to your body.
- Maintain a neutral spine and perform a hip hinge when lifting below your waist level (avoid bending at the spine).
- Lift with your legs. Bend your knees, even a shallow knee bend is better than keeping the knees locked.
- Tighten your tummy – especially when lifting in heavy or awkward positions.
- Test the load if you don’t know the weight.
- Avoid twisting your spine, especially in combination with forward bending.
- Lift smoothly, (force = mass x acceleration).
- Wait for help with heavy loads.
Lifting Overhead – Special consideration should be given to overhead lifts because they are more risky!
- Tighten Tummy.
- Assure a wide base of support with one leg in front of the other.
- Keep your load close.
- Arms lift vertically, legs move object horizontally.
- Use the surface you are lifting on or off of to support the weight as soon as possible.
Consider Changing Stressful Living/Work Habits:
Avoid jumping off of heights, stop smoking, and eat well-balanced, nutritional meals. Change habits at home that contribute to back pain, such as bad sleeping positions, slouched sitting, improper work heights, too little or too much activity.
There are four basic types of exercise – aerobic, strength training, flexibility, and relaxation.
- Aerobic exercise is designed to bring your heart-rate into an aerobic range (220 – age x .6 – .8) and keep it there for at least 20 minutes. The many health benefits of aerobic exercise cannot be emphasized enough.
- Strengthening exercise is typically achieved through some form of weight lifting or resistance exercise. The benefit of this, in addition to being physically stronger for work, is to strengthen those muscles that are often not challenged with work duties, which helps to keep all the muscles in balance. Be careful to avoid overdoing.
- Increase flexibility by adding stretching activities liberally throughout your day. It can help you manage tightness or soreness before it becomes a problem. Stretching allows muscles to relax and helps to expedite the healing of muscle tissue between bouts of activity. Brief rests throughout the day to stretch can go a long way towards maintaining a healthy back.
- Learn to use cognitive and breathing strategies to encourage your muscles to relax. It is especially important for people who have difficulty with muscular tension to learn relaxation strategies to compliment strength and flexibility exercises.
This can be done if you learn to move well, stretch often, wear good footwear, and get help when it is needed to lighten a load. Prevention ideas require patience since we often need to learn new ways of doing things – but it will pay off. Although 100% elimination of accidents may be too lofty of a goal, a huge reduction in the frequency and severity is very attainable with the use of these prevention tips.
In conclusion, change habits that can be changed. Be aware of inherited conditions that may have had a long-term impact on your back and then make more educated decisions accordingly. With persistence and increased awareness, you can delete “Oh, my aching back…” from your list of favorite quotes once and for all!