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The Do's and Don'ts of Back Care

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October 2007
The Do's and Don'ts of Back Care

Did you know that about 80 percent of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives? Did you know that back pain is the most commonly reported health condition? And did you know that, as the American Chiropractic Association points out, half the number of working Americans report having back pain symptoms each year? Back pain can result from poor posture, a lumbar injury such as a sprain or a strain, or even a ruptured disc. Sometimes, factors such as improper care, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking and aging may contribute to injuries. As we age, our muscular strength and elasticity decreases along with the strength of our ligaments. Smoking impairs blood flow, restricting the flow of nutrients to the spine.

Even though back problems are common in middle age, overweight young people who are not in good condition can also be prone to back injuries and pain. Being overweight causes the pelvis to tilt forward, putting added pressure on the spine and contributing to back pain. Weak abdominals can also contribute to back injuries by not providing the adequate protection and support that the back needs.

Exercise proper back care to prevent injuries. To keep your back strong and healthy keep these do's and don'ts in mind:

Do begin an exercise program that includes weight training: Weight bearing exercises strengthen muscles and provide a strong support for the spine, reducing the chances of back injury. Losing weight and dropping inches around the waist can reduce the pressure off your lower back.

Do maintain good posture at all times: This is important if your job requires you to sit most of the day. Sitting for a long period of time puts a strain on the back ligaments and discs. Do get up and walk frequently. When sitting, do sit with your back straight, shoulders back and head up. Don't slouch with a rounded back.

Do lift objects correctly: Squat to lift an object rather then bending over. Don't use your back when lifting. Let your thigh muscles do the work of lifting instead of your back. Do avoid twisting and jerking movements when lifting objects. A common mistake is to reach for something in the back seat of the car when you're in the front seat. Avoid this at all cost.

Don't be a weekend warrior when it comes to sports: If you enjoy basketball, volley ball, cricket, golf or any other sports activity that requires twisting, jumping and/or bending, do keep yourself in good physical shape to play. Weekend warriors who play a competitive sport once a week or on weekends set themselves up for back injury due to weak unconditioned muscles.

Women do take note! Don't wear high heel shoes for a long period of time, as it adds stress to the low back. When standing to complete a task, place one foot on a box so that it will take the pressure off the lower back.

Finally, remember that back injuries and pain can be prevented first and foremost by strengthening muscles and using good posture and lifting techniques. However, if you do suspect a back injury, don't be a slouch and do see your health care practitioner to receive the appropriate treatment.

NEXT MONTH: Back exercises you can perform at home to strengthen your back!

By Aarti Patel


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