Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work. Most people have back pain at least once in their lives. Fortunately, you can take measures to prevent or relieve most back pain episodes.
What should you do to avoid low back pain?
Everyday activity is key to a healthy back, and back pain rarely happens overnight.
Unless it’s the direct result of an accident, it’s usually caused by repeated motion or inaction (like sitting slumped at a desk for long periods of time). This puts our body out of alignment forcing it to work in strange angles, resulting in back pain or injury.
What is the best sleeping position to avoid low back pain?
Sleeping posture matters too. Making simple changes to your sleeping position, can relieve back strain and allow your back to rest.
- Sleeping on your back on a mattress of medium firmness is the best position to keep back pain at bay. Place a pillow or rolled up towel under your knees to promote the natural curve of your spine.
- Side sleepers use a pillow in between your knees. This helps rest your lower back, but a thick body pillow will help keep your whole body aligned while you sleep.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach, this can put too much extension in your neck and low back. If you must sleep on your stomach put a pillow under your stomach.
What can I do at work to avoid low back pain?
Save your back while you work. Whether your workplace is at home or the office — make certain it is set-up for your height and functionality. It’s important to have an ergonomic evaluation and get the right chair and desk for your body type. For example if you are petite you may need a small footstool under your desk so that your feet can touch the floor. If you are tall you will need to get the monitor raised up so you are not looking down at the computer.
Also, keep in mind that staying in one position too long causes the back muscles to tighten up and increase your risk for pain or injury. Make sure you stand up frequently, at least every 30 minutes. Standing desks are very common now and most employers are willing to provide them for their employees.
- Lift heavy objects with your legs. Keep objects close to your body and do not twist. Ask for help if it’s too heavy to lift alone.
- Avoid sudden twisting movements, especially in awkward positions (i.e. reaching for something in the cabinet, back seat, etc.) It’s worth the extra couple of seconds to do it correctly.
- Keep your purses off your shoulders. Carry them under your arm like a clutch. Or wear a bag or briefcase with a wide, adjustable strap that’s long enough to reach over your head. Having the strap on the opposite shoulder of the bag distributes the weight more evenly and helps keep your shoulders even and your back pain-free.
- Men, keep your wallets out of your back pocket. Carry them or put them in your front pocket. Sitting on a wallet can shift your weight to one side and cause strain to one side of the low back.
- Lighten the load – Purge your bags and wallets regularly. Laptops are especially heavy and should be avoided.
- Ditch the skinny jeans or any clothing that restricts your natural movement when walking, sitting or bending down.
- Avoid high heels. They can shift your center of gravity anteriorly and strain your lower back. But, if you feel you must wear a heel, try to keep the heel to 1” or wear flats/sneakers to commute and then change into heels once there.
What are the best exercises to avoid low back pain?
Exercise is the best prevention, but there is no magic bullet in terms of what exercises to do. At Paspa Physical Therapy we tailor exercises to the specific patient and their diagnosis. For example if you have a herniated disc prone extensions may be the best exercise for you, but this exercise may exacerbate pain if someone has a diagnosis of spinal stenosis.
That being said, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of stretching and exercise in treatment and prevention of low back pain. Being active not only strengthens your supporting back muscles, it improves endurance and helps to maintain a healthy weight. All of which contribute to your pain-free back.
Begin any exercise routine with stretching. To get the maximum benefit from stretching, warm up your muscles by walking for 5 to 10 minutes. Improve flexibility through passive stretching and increase strength through active stretching.
Need a little boost to get yourself into a back-healthy way of life? Our Paspa Physical Therapists provide comprehensive and individualized exercise programs, helping to prevent injury and pain. Usually on the first visit, the physical therapist will give you a program you can do at home.
Working with a physical therapist is the quickest way to rid yourself of back damaging habits, feeling great and doing somersaults, if you want to!