If you suffer from lower back pain you are not alone. As someone who has suffered three episodes of intense LBP within the past ten years, I am among the millions of people who suffer from this condition. It is the number one reason to visit your doctor or miss work, and if you have never experienced LBP you are a in a significant minority. Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that makes it difficult to move. It can start quickly if you fall or lift something too heavy, or it can get worse slowly. Discs that sit between the vertebrae of the spine can rupture or break down. Muscles can strain or tear.
We use our back all day, throughout the day, and it can suffer extraordinary forces through our frequent bad habits while lifting, carrying heavy things, or even during sitting. Even if we think we are using the best posture and mechanics, we still can be setting ourselves up literally for a rude awakening.
So here are the best 8 ways to prevent LBP:
- Always warm up before exercise or other strenuous physical activity, including work activities that involve lifting or bending.
- Don’t slouch or lean forward when standing or sitting. Your back supports your weight the best when it is in its natural alignment.
- At home or work, sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper position and height for the task.
- A pillow or rolled-up towel placed behind the small of your back can provide some lumbar support while sitting at your desk or even for long commutes. (Tip: Roll up a medium sized towel and wrap plastic wrap around it several times to hold it together. It will last longer and can work just as good as a $50 lumbar roll! I have one in my car!)
- Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes if you need to be on your feet for extended periods.
- Don’t try to lift objects too heavy for you. Lift with your knees, pull in your stomach muscles, and keep your head down and in line with your straight back. Keep the object close to your body. Do not twist when lifting. And ask for help when transferring heavy or odd shaped items.
- Limit excessive body weight around the abdomen. Maintain a diet with sufficient daily intake of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D, which will help to promote new bone growth.
- And last but definitely not least, if you smoke, quit. Smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine and causes the spinal discs to degenerate at a faster rate.
Recurring back pain is often preventable and can often times become worse if we do not take care of our backs once an initial injury has occurred. If you have suffered a lower back injury, you need to take immediate actions to correct the reason you developed LBP in the first place and take proactive measures to eliminate these factors from occurring in the future.
Your best bet of preventing LBP from becoming chronic or recurring is to visit a physical therapist. Physical therapists are highly trained professionals who are experts in the musculoskeletal system. They can show you things such as weakness in your core muscles you didn’t think you had, faults in your lifting mechanics or posture, and even how the way you run or exercise can cause trips to the ER and years of pain.
Even if you do not have current LBP, I think you would agree that taking the time out of your day now is better than experiencing the symptoms in the future.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin
Michael Phillip, PT
Physical Therapists – South Office