With our busy lives and/or sedentary desk-jobs many of us can feel the effects of what we do in our backs. Accidents, work-related injuries, poor posture and stress are all factors that contribute to a very common ailment most have encountered at various times. In fact, the American Physical Therapy Association writes, “In our modern, industrial society, back pain is the most common cause of loss of activity among adults under 45. It’s estimated that over 80% of all American workers suffer back pain at some time during their careers.” Indeed, some occupations place greater demands on a person’s back than others but even the normal, every-day kind of activities we engage in can contribute to the irritation of back pain.
The good news is that we can make a conscientious effort to take care of our backs in the midst of our schedules and work obligations. As with most things, prevention is the best remedy so it is important to pay attention to our activities, stresses and lifestyle. By making adjustments where possible, we can take the preventative steps necessary to keep our backs free from pain and/or injury.
What To Look For
- Ways to Prevent Back Pain and Injuries including:
- Adequate rest
- Make your work environment as safe as possible
- Take care to watch your posture especially when lifting heavy objects and/or working in environments requiring repetitious physical labor
- Lowering your stress level as much as possible (see also SmartLivingNews Archive: Handling Stress and General Anxiety, Oct. 01, 2005)
- Regular exercise
- For Avoiding Pain and Injuries:
- Set realistic weight-loss goals. Being within the ideal weight range for your height and frame will minimize stress on your back.
- Regular exercise (especially aerobic training and/or specific stretching exercises) can help strengthen your back muscles and increase your flexibility.
- Pay attention to your posture and avoid slouching or straining when standing for long periods of time. Also, change your position frequently.
- Find chairs and positions that support your back when sitting down.
- When lifting heavy objects keep the object close to you and lift with your legs.
- Ask for help when lifting heavy loads.
- Try adjusting your work environment if you can reduce the need for repetitious bending and/or physical labor.
- Use a headset when spending time on the phone to avoid cradling the phone between your shoulder and ear which adds stress to your back.
- Invest in shoes with little/no heels and non-slip or rubber soles to relieve back stress as well as to avoid trips and falls.
- Try and eliminate as many potential stressors in your life as possible – This may include taking a lighter work load, performing deep-breathing exercises, taking a walk, or taking time to talk to a friend, etc.
- Get adequate rest.
- For Relief of (lower) back pain:
- Contact your doctor/chiropractor immediately for back pain caused by physical injuries and/or you experience extreme pain affecting your ability to move around, etc.
- Lie down with your back on the floor, place pillows underneath your knees and either bend your knees or lay your feet on a chair. This is the best (temporary) position to relieve back pain.
- Take a walk frequently – even every few minutes or hours for a couple of days.
- Carve out time to rest your back (1 – 2 days).
- Place a heating pad on the area of your back where you feel painful muscle spasms for 20 – 30 minutes at a time. This will help release tension and relax the muscle spasms.
- Try using ice packs for severe pain.
- Massages can also provide relief.
- Begin a moderate exercise routine. An inactive lifestyle contributes to stress build-up and back pain.
- Incorporate vitamins and minerals into your diet including glucosamine, calcium and magnesium to promote muscle health.