Tips to Prevent Back Pain

Our back, specifically the lower back, bears most of the weight of our upper body. It also provides the body the strength and stability to stand, walk and lift and allows for complex motions such as turning, twisting, and bending. To put it simply, we constantly place great demands on our backs with our daily movements.

Due to constant and sometimes heavy use, the structures that make up our back – bones, muscles, ligaments, disks, and nerves – are quite susceptible to both injury and wear and tear over time, causing back pain in many people. This is why, whether you are an industrial worker who performs physically demanding tasks or an office-based employee who mostly sits in front of a computer, you most probably will experience back pain at some point in your life.

Back pain is usually nothing serious, and a trip to the doctor is not always necessary unless you have a major underlying issue. Although this is true, an episode of back pain can cause severe and debilitating pain that may disrupt day-to-day activities at work and at home and hence must not be taken lightly.

Fortunately, most cases of back pain are preventable. The following are the things we can do to protect our back and prevent or at least relieve back pain episodes.

1. Lift objects correctly

While lifting seems like a very simple and risk-free activity, it can be potentially dangerous and may result to back injuries that may cause back pain. Lifting heavy loads at work puts you at greater risk, but even lifting grocery bags or laundry baskets can lead to lower back pain especially if you do it incorrectly.

If you do need to lift something, keep the following in mind:

  • Get as close to the object as possible.
  • As you bend down to lift, bend with your knees instead of your back and tighten your stomach muscles. Your back should be kept upright in its neutral position.
  • Don't twist your body while lifting

As a rule of thumb, do not lift heavy objects on your own, especially if you are not used to heavy lifting. If an object is too heavy to lift safely, ask for someone’s help or use lifting devices, if available.

2. Maintain correct posture while sitting or standing

The spine has three natural curves - at your neck, mid-back, and low back- that looks like an S curve. To protect your back, maintain good posture by keeping this natural curve of your spine when you are sitting or standing.

When sitting

  • Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet rest flat on the floor and your knees are at the same height as - or slightly below - your hips. If the height of the chair cannot be adjusted, use a footrest.
  • Ensure that your lower back is supported. If your office chair does not have lumbar support, put a pillow or rolled-up towel behind your back to act as support.
  • If you are using a computer desktop, position the screen directly in front of you (about an arm’s length away) and adjust your monitor so that the top is slightly below eye level. Your elbow should be at 90° angle.
  • If you are using a laptop, elevate it using a stand or stable support such as books then connect a separate keyboard and mouse. Laptops can compromise posture as the monitor and keyboard are so close together that they cannot both be in good positions at the same time.

When standing

  • Balance your weight evenly on both feet with your head up, shoulders back and stomach pulled in.
  • If you are standing for prolonged periods, shift your weight from your toes to your heels or from one foot to the other. If possible, use a footstool where you can prop one foot up and switch sides every so often.
  • Avoid high heels as they can shift your center of gravity and strain your lower back. Stick to a one-inch heel for regular use. If you have to go higher than that, bring along a pair of flat or low-heeled shoes so that you can switch into them when your high-heeled shoes become uncomfortable.

3. Change positions frequently when sitting for long periods

Sitting, especially for prolonged periods, is generally harder on the back than standing. And regardless of how good your posture is, being in the same position for too long will eventually become uncomfortable and can be hard on your back. If your work mostly requires sitting throughout the day, do not forget to change your position frequently in the following ways:

  • Slightly adjust your chair or backrest every once in a while.
  • Take short breaks at least once every hour of uninterrupted sitting to use the restroom, get a glass of water, or visit the copy machine
  • Find time to stand even while working – while making calls, while typing, or even while fixing things on your desk.
  • Walk to a colleague’s desk when you need to relay a message, if possible, instead of calling, chatting, or emailing.
  • Get up and stretch. Place your hands on your lower back and gently arch backward.

Driving for long hours can also result to back pain. If you have a long drive, take breaks so you’re not sitting in the same position for hours.

4. Sleep on a mattress with medium firmness

Even when you are sleeping, your spine should remain as close to its neutral position as possible. One way to achieve this is to sleep on a mattress firm enough that your shoulders do not sink, but soft enough that you feel comfortable sleeping on it. A medium-firm mattress typically offers the best comfort, but a firm mattress with a soft pillow top may also be a good choice.

Additionally, you can use a pillow to improve the alignment of your spine while you sleep. If you are sleeping on your back, place a pillow underneath your knees to help maintain the natural curve of your spine. On the other hand, if you usually sleep on your side, you may place a pillow between your knees to align your hips and spine and reduce twisting.

Sleeping on your stomach is not the most ideal position especially when you are sleeping on a saggy mattress. But if it is the only comfortable position for you, you can place a pillow under your pelvis or lower abdomen for support.

5. Stay healthy

Improving your physical health with proper lifestyle also helps in preventing back pain by keeping your back healthy and strong.

Follow the tips below to ensure a strong and healthy back:

  • Eat a nutritious diet with adequate amount of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D to promote new bone growth. These nutrients prevent a condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle. Having weak bones makes you susceptible to fractures that can also cause back pain.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds, especially in your midsection, can make back pain worse as it shifts your center of gravity and putts extra strain on your lower back.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular low-impact aerobic activities can increase strength and endurance in your back and allow your muscles to function better. Walking and swimming are low-impact activities that you can try. In addition to aerobic activities, you can also focus on strengthening your core with abdominal and back muscle exercises to increase support of your spine and avoid poor posture (i.e. slumping).
  • Quit smoking. Smoking reduces blood flow to your spine, which can contribute to spinal disk degeneration, a back problem that also causes pain in the lower back. In addition, smoking slows healing from back injuries, making you more likely to suffer from longer-lasting pain. Coughing induced by smoking can also cause back pain among smokers.
Wellness has been a significant part of the service that Trinity provides to its Employee Benefits clients. To know more about our healthcare plans, please visit:
https://trinity-insures.com/collections/employee-benefits/products/hmo

 

 

References

  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10040-spine-structure-and-function
  • https://www.ninds.nih.gov/low-back-pain-fact-sheet
  • https://blink.ucsd.edu/safety/occupational/ergonomics/training/lift.html#4.-Lift-and-carry-the-load
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20369906
  • https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/preventing-back-pain-at-work-and-at-home/
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/back-pain/art-20044526
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