Tag: back pain

Back for the Future: Tips to Prevent a Life of Lumbar Pain

Male Back (2)

 

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has reported that nearly 80% of all people will experience some form of severe back pain in their lives, and is the most common place people get hurt at work.

Back injury is commonly caused by improper lifting technique, repetitive straining, or sudden force, but even poor posture or ergonomically incorrect seating can lead to pain.

Because the lower part of the body bears the weight of the torso and must manage more motion, the lower back—or lumbar spine region—is the most commonly injured. Herniated discs, pulled muscles and strained tendons can all cause lower back pain for many people, whether they work physically demanding jobs or sit at a desk all day.

Fortunately, there are many things everyone can do to prevent a life of lumbar pain. Below are some of the top recommended tips to prevent back injury.

 

1. Let the Legs Lift—

Lifting heavy items the wrong way is a common way to hurt the back because we often don’t think about picking something up; we impulsively lean over to grab it and… ouch! There goes the back.

To prevent this painful scenario, train yourself to squat rather than lean over when you grab anything beyond lower reach. If you’ve learned to do a squat exercise the proper way, you know exactly how to lift correctly—with the legs.

Proper lifting form involves pushing the rear end out and bending at the knees like you’re sitting in a chair. Your goal is to engage the thigh muscles, and not the back. Grab the item you’re lifting as closely to yourself on the way back up, and use your leg power to rise without twisting in the middle. Also, remember to reverse this process to put anything down.

If you can master proper lift technique to the point that you automatically assume this position, you will drastically reduce your chances for future back pain.

 

2. Building the Back—

Prevention is the best plan to avoid back injury, and one great way to avoid hurting muscles is to strengthen them.

The abdominal core muscles support back muscles, and by making sure you have abs of steel, you’ll be bracing your back as well. Pay special attention to reinforcing the oblique muscles that run along the sides of the body, as these help to steady the back during lifting.

Sitting on an exercise ball, leg lifts, crunches, back leg swings, lunges and squats are all great examples of core-strengthening moves that boost the back. If you can use workouts to lose excess belly fat, this will also help your spine stay aligned and strong.

 

3. Posture Perfect—

The role of maintaining good posture can’t be stressed enough when it comes to avoiding or alleviating back pain. Because bad posture can become a habit, it has the power to put the spine completely out of alignment, wreaking havoc on back muscles.

When standing, the head should be lined up with the backbone, shoulders back, with abdominal muscles engaged and straight.

Sitting posture should be exactly the same, with both feet flat on the floor. Avoid slumping or crossing the legs to keep muscles and ligaments properly lined up.

Don’t forget that the car counts, too. Especially if you have a long daily commute, your car may be the cause of your back pain, so adjust your seat and posture accordingly.

 

4. Sleep Tight… and Right—

If you’re experiencing chronic back pain without obvious reasons like those mentioned above, you might consider your sleeping situation. Many people don’t even realize their bed is causing the problem.

An extremely soft bed is recommended against because it doesn’t offer enough support, stretching muscles, ligaments and bones beyond comfort zones.

But a very hard bed can force the body into overly rigid, uncomfortable positions that make muscles ache as well, so what you’re seeking is firm support with enough give to provide comfort.

Special beds with adjustable settings are also available that can help you find the perfect foundation for your body’s needs.

 

5. Stress Less—

Everybody holds tension in different areas, but for many, the back is a common place to experience stress-related muscle tightness.

This is especially prevalent in the upper back, so if you notice your shoulders rising as anxiety builds, get into the habit of consciously lowering the shoulders every hour, along with deep breaths to promote relaxation.

 

It is estimated that treatment for lower back pain costs around $50 billion every year, and is the number one cause for job-related disability. (Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.)

Back pain can drastically lessen the quality of life for those who suffer from it, so if you manage a business, be sure to educate employees about how to avoid back injuries. If you are experiencing lumbar pain or want to avoid injury in the future, be sure to use the tips above to keep your back muscles strong and protected for life.

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Back It Up! 6 Exercises to Build Back Strength and Prevent Injury

Cobra Pose (2)

 

It has been estimated that nearly 80% of Americans will suffer from back pain or injury in their lifetimes, making the building of core strength and back muscles an especially important part of any exercise regimen.

Many people who experience back injuries mistakenly think exercise will cause harm, but most physical therapy for strained backs involves limiting bed rest and gently working the muscles to slowly build them up. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons now endorses 10-30 minutes of exercise during the early stages of back pain as helpful for recovery. (Source: Healthline.com.)

If you have back muscle issues, have experienced a back injury, or would like to prevent yourself from ever having to deal with this painful and debilitating problem, there are many workouts fitness experts and physical therapists recommend to help.

Below are 6 types of exercises to build back strength and prevent injury:

 

1. Leg Raises—

Because abdominal and other core muscles support the back, exercises that strengthen the middle of the body are extremely helpful for those with back pain.

To do a leg raise, lie on the floor with legs out straight, lift one leg slowly in a controlled manner, and hold it for at least 10 seconds. Count to 5 as you lower it to prevent a muscle-pulling sudden movement, and repeat with the other leg.

This exercise can also be done while lying on the stomach and raising legs up behind you, while being careful not to lift too high as this can strain the lower back.

 

2. Pelvic Tilts—

This is a classic exercise used by physical therapists to strengthen back muscles without exacerbating the injury, but it can be used to prevent injury as well.

To do a pelvic tilt, lie on the floor on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Flatten the stomach muscles into the spine and press the lower back down against the floor for 5-10 seconds.

Repeat this exercise until you feel strong enough to lift the pelvis off the floor while still tightening and engaging abdominal muscles for added core strengthening.

If you can eventually raise the entire body up and grab your heels with your hands, this is called bridge pose in yoga, and is well known for its back-strengthening effects.

 

3. Use an Exercise Ball—

If your back is not currently injured and can handle not being supported while you sit, an exercise ball is a great way to introduce core-building instability into your workouts, or even into your daily life if you use a ball for seating at work or home.

Sitting on an exercise ball while lifting light free weights is a great way to make the core stronger while working the upper body.

Doing squats with the ball rolling up and down between yourself and the wall can also strengthen back-protecting thigh and gluteus muscles.

 

4. Start Stretching—

Incorporating a stretching routine into your daily plan is a great idea for everyone, but especially for those with back weakness.

There are many yoga exercises that increase back flexibility, and the more limber the back is, the less likely it is to become injured.

The cobra pose involves lying on the stomach and raising the upper body with the arms straightened to stretch the back while legs remain on the floor.

Another excellent yoga stretch for the back are reclining twists, with legs bent at the knee together, and moved from one side of the body to the other while lying flat on the back.

 

5. Sit-Ups and Leg-Ups—

Exercises that work the abdominal muscles by partially raising the body while supporting the neck are helpful for back injury prevention, such as partial sit-ups like crunches.

Bending legs together at the knee and reverse crunching the lower body up while you lie flat on your back can also work the core muscles while allowing the upper back to rest.

Raising one knee to the chest at a time while turning slightly during leg and ab crunches can also help involve the oblique/side abdominal muscles to create a brace to support the back.

 

6. Allover Exercise—

Gentle cardio like walking, swimming and recumbent biking are great for keeping the body flexible and moving to prevent the stiffening that can lead to back injury.

Yoga and Pilates aren’t known for their cardiovascular benefits, but they keep the body limber and strong while eliminating the tension that can lead to tight and strained muscles.

Regular exercise can also promote weight loss which helps the back because extra pounds give the body more to carry around, straining all of the muscles.

 

Abdominal exercises and other core builders like hip, back and stability-based moves can increase the flexibility and strength of the back to prevent injury while giving you excellent posture and keeping you in great shape. Use some of the helpful back strength-building exercises above to make sure your back stays powerful and permanently pain-free.