3 Simple Ways to Prevent Back Pain
If you are suffering from back pain already, this advice has come too late. The good news is that when you know what caused the pain, you can be sure things don’t get worse.
As for people fortunate enough to have not known this scourge, read on to prevent the distressing experience…
While this article deals with avoidable causes for back pain, it is no substitute for a doctor’s advice. This is common sense, not a disclaimer: instead of reading this article, consult your physician for any discomfort you may be facing currently.
Try Not to Sit in the Same Position for Too Long
Your spine remains healthy with enough flow of blood only when you are moving around naturally. Sleeping is fine because it is natural. Sitting on a chair looking at your computer monitor is not because modern life created it.
Take a break every 20 minutes or so. Shifting in your seat and looking around counts. You don’t invariably have to get up and move around. Set an alarm, however, or you will forget.
Introducing Your Lower Back to Your Chair
Choose an ergonomically designed chair (hint: buy from a reputed brand), push your lower back in snug with the backrest, and hold that position. Don’t slip out a few inches awkwardly when leaning forward or talking to someone.
If the chair does not support your lower back properly, or if you’re still feeling a bit of strain, try pushing in a rolled towel at the point of contact between your lower back and the chair. Placed horizontally in its rolled-up form, the towel should cover the entire breadth of your lower back.
Sitting Straight and Looking Good
Sit straight – but not in a ridiculously rigid posture. Occasionally hunching over the table with a rounded back is perfectly alright since it gives you a break.
Don’t strain your neck – you wouldn’t want a cervical slipped disc while protecting your lower back. Keep all reading material (including the computer monitor) at eye level or slightly below eye level. You will know if you are looking at a higher level than is ideal when the base of the skull or the entire neck begins to ache.
Once you get into the habit of sitting yourself properly and feeling the benefits of not slouching, things will come naturally.
Final Tips on Sitting
If you’re not sitting on level ground or if your weight is not evenly distributed on both hips, you could suffer an injury. Even a purse in the hip pocket can cause uneven weight distribution. Never sit in a tilted position.
And, a swivel chair is best if you frequently need to turn sideways. When using two desktop monitors or collaborating with someone sitting beside you, it is best that your chair does the turning.
When You Lift, Lift: Don’t Turn
If you must turn, pivot on the balls of your feet, not from the waist. While lifting, maintain strict form even when picking up a paper clip. Your own bodyweight will act against you if you adopt a poor posture.
Proper lifting techniques include:
- Pulling the lower back in (instead of allowing it to curve outward)
- Lowering the body to the object by bending the knees and coming back up by straightening them (instead of bending down from the waist on straight legs)
- Holding the object close to the body to ensure the least stress/strain on your back and
- Not holding it at a level higher than your underarms or lower than your knees.
Maintain form while putting the object down, especially if you have to place it on the ground. Pulled-in lower back, bent knee and all that.
Finally, particularly if you are out of shape and the object was heavy, maintain strict form while returning to a standing position after having put the object down. Your back did endure stress and can give in if you do not pay attention at this final stage.
As with sitting, make a conscious effort the first couple of times, and things will come naturally.
Take Care of Your Core
Muscles in your stomach, back, pelvis, waist, and thighs more or less constitute the core. They support the body and protect it from stress, strain, and overwork. You can usually get away with the occasional bad posture or even a bad fall if your core is strong enough.
Know Your Core Muscles
On either side of your waist are the external obliques. The rectus abdominis are visible as the coveted ‘six pack‘. The transverse abdominis lie between the rectus and the obliques.
Pelvic floor muscles are not externally visible, but if you ever practiced Kegels, you strengthened them. Kegels approximate the act of stopping urine mid-flow.
Among the back muscles are the trapezius right below and on either side of the neck, and the latissimus dorsi that creates the famed V-shape of bodybuilders. The erector spinae encase the spine from both sides, protecting the spinal discs from stress.
Then there’s the gluteus maximus, which is basically your posterior.
Below that are the quadriceps and the hamstrings that constitute the thigh muscles.
Problems Related to Weak Core Muscles
You could suffer from moderate to severe (and sometimes debilitating) lower back pain depending upon how underdeveloped your core muscles are.
Shoulder and backaches are frequently ignored until they get acute. Sometimes you realize they were there only after a good massage.
Mid back pain does not prevent you from walking around normally like lower back pain does. It goes unnoticed most of the time while still draining you of energy.
A Core-Strengthening Solution for Busy People
The solution is to work out for just 15 minutes every other day or even three times a week.
If you are too busy for even that, how about for three minutes three times a week?
Three Minutes, Three Days, Every Week
Find someone to show you how to perform the plank. It is the single most time-saving exercise and will tone your entire body, including the core muscles.
Warning: Trying to hold a plank by looking at online videos is not advisable. A bad plank posture can damage your body more than a lack of exercise ever could.
Add Three More Minutes…
Eight to ten reps (for three sets) of the following movement will strengthen the trapezius (or ‘traps,’ as they are popularly called) and prevent mid back pain.
Stand straight with legs shoulder-width apart, and arms stretched out to the sides, spine erect. Turn your upper body from the waist to your right as far as you can comfortably go. Keep looking at the fingers of your right hand to keep your waist, shoulder, arms, and neck aligned.
When you can’t turn further, hold for a second and return to the original position slowly. Slowly. Don’t lose control of your body. Repeat on your left.
And Another Three Minutes, No More
In an erect posture, try to bring your elbows together behind your back and deliberately (but not forcibly) squeeze your back muscles at the same time.
Don’t focus on any particular muscle: plain and simple squeezing your back will keep the erector spinae healthy. And tone your chest muscles as a bonus — three sets of three reps per set.
Do not despair if your elbows don’t actually come together – just squeeze the back while trying to get them to touch, and you’ll have reaped the benefits completely.
Make Prevention a Habit
There you have it, extremely simple ways to ensure you never get to know what back pain is. Look upon these as lifestyle changes and give them a couple of weeks until they settle in as a habit. Rest assured, your life will be healthier and more productive once they do.