We all know it’s important to maintain good back health by doing things that help strengthen it and avoid the things that cause harm… this is just common sense. The problem for most of us is that we don’t know what are the things we need to avoid and what are some simple things we can do to prevent back problems from occurring in the first place!
1st Don’t- Don’t lift heavy things early in the morning. Most people are aware of the “lift with the legs” motto, which means bending your knees when lifting something. But there are also some other gems you need to know to avoid a back injury. First, the back disks are highly pressurised (full of water) first thing in the morning. This makes your back more stiff. It also makes stresses on the disk more substantial with lifts. So if possible, avoid lifting heavy things or in stooped awkward positions, first thing in the morning. If you have a choice of doing laundry first thing in the morning or at night, do it at night.
2nd Don’t- Don’t be a hero! Another thing to think about when lifting something awkward or heavy is to get some help. There’s no point in trying to be superman or superwoman and test the limits of your back strength. A second person helping could save you a trip to see me!
3rd Don’t and 1st Do!- Don’t sit for hours on end! Go for a walk after work! Another “don’t” for the low back is to avoid sitting as much as possible. While some jobs make this difficult, there’s no reason to follow eight hours of sitting at the job with four hours of evening sitting at home. The back craves and thrives on motion, especially walking. Why not go for a thirty-minute walk after dinner, instead of being a couch or chair potato? The spine is architecturally designed for walking. This is where it is at its optimum. Sitting in a chair is a very unnatural position for the lumbar spine. The walking, while helpful for the back, can also pay dividends for your heart health and longevity.
2nd Do– Another important “do” for the low back is stretching. Simple stretching for 30 seconds each, the calves (lower legs), hamstrings (back of the thighs) and quadriceps (front of the legs), can help to keep the back flexible. Recall that we are supposed to lift with the legs. If the legs muscles are tight and/or weak, then the low back is going to take up much more of the weight and stress, increasing your risk for injury.
Adhering to a few good spinal “hygiene” principals can do a lot to maintain spinal health and keep your visits to my clinic to a minimum. Prevention is the key to good health.