Do you suffer from lower back pain — or know someone who does? Then you know it's no laughing matter. Back pain can keep you from activities you enjoy and make even simple movements an ordeal. The good news is, there are things you can do to keep your back healthy.
- Get fit. Often, back pain is the result of weak back and abdominal muscles. Stretching and strengthening these muscles can help support your spine and improve your posture. Exercises that benefit the back include walking, bicycling and swimming. And because these exercises are low impact, they come with a reduced risk of pain or injury.
- Watch your weight. The heavier you are, the more weight your spine must support. Worse, if you carry a lot of weight in the form of belly fat, your center of balance can shift forward, forcing your back to work even harder. Take pressure off your spine by maintaining a healthy weight. Aim for a body mass index (or BMI, a measure of weight in relation to height) of 19 to 25.
- Quit smoking. Studies show that smokers experience more frequent bouts of back pain than nonsmokers. It is believed that nicotine contributes to back pain in two ways: by restricting the flow of blood to the vertebrae and disks, and by hastening the loss of bone mass, which may also lead to osteoporosis.
- Take a load off. Backpacks are a common cause of back pain for people of all ages — especially students. If you use a backpack, be sure to use both of the pack's straps instead of carrying the pack on one shoulder. Don't overload your pack. Instead, carry only what you need. And when transporting a heavy load, try to position the heaviest items as close to the center of your back as possible.
- Be kind to your spine. Keep your back in mind as you sit and move throughout the day. When sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor and your knees slightly higher than your hips. When bending from the waist, support yourself with your hands. When lifting something heavy, get close to it, bend your knees and use your leg muscles to lift. Avoid sitting or standing in the same position for extended periods — be sure to stretch, shift positions and take short walks periodically.
Stop the hurting
If back pain is part of your life, or for more information on keeping your back strong and healthy, we have the resources that can help.
To find a doctor or speak to a nurse, call Consult-A-Nurse® at (951) 788-3463, 24 hours a day.
For more information, visit Orthopedics & Joint Replacement.
Sources: Health.Harvard.edu, MedlinePlus.gov, NIH.gov