Many people believe low back pain results from a single accident or injury. But it’s more typically caused by the accumulation of small things over the years. Being overweight, smoking, sitting for long periods of time and using poor lifting mechanics can eventually lead to back pain.
The good news is if you take proper precautions now, you can lower your risk for back pain. Here are some tips to help prevent it:
- Take a brisk walk – The tendency is to think slower walking is easier on your body. But for your back, a brisk pace is better. Walk fast enough to swing your arms and it will send important fluid to your back, disperse forces and load your spine in a better way.
- Avoid sitting for too long – Aim to get up at least once an hour for a quick walk and stretch.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Simply put, the more weight you carry, the more force is applied to your spine. Maintaining a healthy weight can help lighten the load on your back. If you need help losing weight, a dietician can help you achieve long-term results.
- Quit smoking – Smoking decreases blood flow to all areas of the body. The blood supply to the discs along your spine is already limited. Smoking further decreases blood flow to those discs and limits your back’s ability to heal itself.
- Get the right mattress – The shape of your back can help determine which type of mattress is right for you. People with flatter backs tend to do better with firm mattresses whereas those with more curved backs need a softer mattress.
- Find a good sleeping position – The best position for your back is usually the one that’s the most comfortable. If you sleep on your back, try placing a little roll under your lower back for extra support. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees to keep your spine in alignment.
- Lift properly – You’ve probably heard you should squat when you pick things up. But this isn’t realistic when you pick up something lighter off the floor, like a pen or piece of paper. So instead of focusing on squatting, think about keeping your back straight, bending at the hips and lifting with your legs.
- Wear high heels sparingly – A smart approach is to wear heels only when you feel you need to but otherwise avoid them.
For the vast majority of people, back pain goes away within a month of onset. However, if you experience any red flag symptoms such as weakness in your legs, loss of bladder or bowel control, poor balance, or fever or chills, you need to seek immediate medical attention. It’s also a good idea to touch base with your doctor if you still have pain after a week or two to see if there’s anything that can be done to help manage your symptoms or speed recovery.
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness locations offer a variety of classes and workshops that can help people prevent back pain. Everything from stretching to strength training – all geared toward help people stay fit and prevent back pain over time.