Preventing back injuries is a big concern to many people. Back pain either slows down or temporarily incapacitates almost two-thirds of all Americans at some point in their lifetime. A healthy spine allows you to be active on your terms. Taking care of your spine pays off in the long run. Injury prevention is possible (and will also save money and time in doctor’s visits) by regularly practicing a few easy-to-learn steps.
Essential Prevention Measure #1: Exercise and fitness – Stay fit by exercising and stretching. Long lean muscles support the body’s weight much more efficiently. Muscles and ligaments are less likely to strain or sprain, joints will stay well-lubricated and soft tissues in between vertebrae cushion properly and will stay in alignment.
Some basic ideas for back exercise include:
- Warm up. Get the muscles ready for running or heavy lifting.
- Stretch before and after exercise. Exercise is great, but an easy stretch of the back and legs can really make a difference.
- Strengthen the stomach and back muscles equally. Give the spine support from all sides.
- Keep your legs strong; keeping legs toned can help ease the burden on the back.
Essential Prevention Measure #2: Proper posture and knowing how your body works – When standing or sitting correctly, the muscles and ligaments are supporting the vertebrae, which are stacked so that the spinal cord and nerves aren’t pinched. An ergonomically correct workstation or desk is imperative with the amount of time now spent spend at computers. Set up your desk so that your spine rarely twisting, bending or straining. When lifting or pushing something heavy into place, slow down, plan ahead and make sure your footing is secure.
Essential Prevention Measure #3: Body positions – Be sure to change positions often. If you must stand for a long time, crouch down occasionally to give your lower back muscles a rest. If you are sitting for long periods of time make sure that your chair has proper lumbar support and take frequent breaks.
Essential Prevention Measure #4: Repetition and weight – Reduce the number of heavy objects that you have to lift, push or pull, and alter the way that you maneuver them. If you have to lift something heavy and don’t have anyone to help you, lift properly; bend at the knees, keep your back straight and don’t strain. Push a heavy object; don’t pull it if you don’t have to since you have more leverage if you are pushing. If you know you have a full day of lifting, be sure to take breaks every so often to give your back muscles time to recover. Ask for help.
Essential Prevention Measure #5 – Eat, drink (water) and rest – These are three common sense steps that we have all heard before regarding many different issues. If you eat well, the vitamins and minerals from the food will give your bones and muscles the nutrients needed to properly function and stay strong. Eating well will also help to keep you close to your body’s ideal weight, which means less pressure and stress on the back. Drinking several large glasses of water a day keeps everything hydrated. Invertebral disks will stay padded, joints well lubricated, and muscles supple. Resting (in a spine-friendly position) can give ligaments, muscles and joints time to recover from stress and overuse. Getting a regular good night’s sleep is crucial to a healthy back.
All in all, treating your body well will pay you back in the long run.