DID YOU KNOW...
Back pain is one of the most common & disabling of injuries?
A large percentage of the population complains of recurring back pain (this increases with age!).
More males than females get back injuries
Back pain is a common risk in these types of occupations: truckers, firefighters, health care workers (paramedics, nurses, aides), and labourers.
Back pain is commonly caused or made worse by poor posture, overweight/obesity, repetitive sprains & strains, muscle imbalances, poor flexibility, decreased strength, sedentary lifestyle, bad mattresses, fatigue, and stress (just to name a few!).
With so many causes of back pain we need to look at ways we can reduce our risk of injury, strain, or reccurent pain. Since we spend the majority of our time either sitting, standing, or sleeping it would make sense to look at how we can prevent back injury in these common positions. Let's look at sitting first:
Avoid long periods of sitting
Avoid sitting forward on chair w/ back arched
Keep back slightly rounded or firmly against chair
Keep feet flat on floor with knees level with hips
Avoid sitting with legs straight & raised on stool
Try a back/lumbar support in your chair and/or vehicle
Avoid long periods of standing (alternate with sitting)
Frequently shift weight from one foot to another
Stand tall, engage abdominals, and relax your knees
Avoid arching back
Work on maintaining or increasing lower abdominal strength and hip flexibility (hamstrings & hip flexors)
A firm mattress is a better option than a soft mattress
Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach (especially with your arms raised above your head)
If you are a back sleeper put a pillow under your knees
The ideal position? 'Fetal' position (try with pillow b/t knees or body pillow)
Try not to sleep in one position too long
What about prevention of injury when we are moving around? We talked about the common occupations at higher risk of injury & recurrent back pain. Those occupations require a lot of moving, twisting, lifting, & carrying. To further protect our back from injury we need to be aware of proper lifting & carrying techniques.
Some general principles to follow are:
Avoid lifting/bending when you can
Put objects off the floor. Try to raise and/or lower shelves to between waist & shoulder height
If you can't avoid moving heavier objects either use a dolley or cart, or adhere to the following proper lifting techniques:
Picking something heavy off the floor or below the waist?
Engage your core. Take a wider balanced stance. Bend your knees
Get close to the object, so you can hold it close to your body
Lift up slowly.. Use your big muscles (legs, butt, abs)!
Hold the object close at waist level with both hands. Try not to shift the weight around or change your grip
Turn by moving your entire body, not just by twisting at the waist
When putting the object down,reverse the above steps
Both flexibility & strength are going to be key components in the prevention of back injury & pain. Below are my top 3 strengthening exercises to optimize your back health. The focus for all should be on slow controlled movements, keeping your core engaged, and breathing rhythmically. Check out the video for the exercises and their advanced variations.
1. Knee Planks
2. Dead Bugs
3. Dynamic Horse Stance