Chances are pretty good you and the person next to you have something in common: back pain. According to the National Institutes of Health, 8 out of 10 people will at some point suffer back pain that hinders their work, daily living, and leisure activities.
Acute injuries lasting a few days or weeks most likely stem from traumas such as falls, sports injuries, strains from working around the house, or automobile accidents. The pain becomes chronic if it stays around longer than three months. Seek medical attention as soon as possible after an injury, and you can minimize the time it takes to return to your normal routine.
Here are five tips to help prevent back pain
1. Always carry packages close to your body. Carrying packages close to your body prevents unnecessary strain on you low back. Always test how heavy a box or bag is before lifting. When in doubt, ask for help!
2. Clean out your purse/wallet frequently. I went purse shopping yesterday, and, quite frankly, I was amazed that most purses were the size of brief cases! Carry only what you truly need in your purse. If it is too heavy, the weight can promote a postural imbalance. As for wallets in you back pocket, keep them cleaned out too. A bulging wallet can push your pelvis out of balance when you sit, with one hip higher than the other. When driving long distances, try putting your wallet in the glove compartment.
3. Get up from your desk every half hour and stretch. Most of us bring a strong work ethic to our jobs, where we often face recurring deadlines and a demand for high productivity. By putting your own needs on the back burner, however, you take a toll on your body, physically and emotionally. A daily stretching routine-right at your desk-can reduce stress, improve your posture, and even ease back pain. You don’t need expensive equipment, and you don’t need a substantial block of time. There’s always time to sneak in a stretch or two-no matter where you are.
4. Sit with proper posture. Some of my clients sit with their legs curled under them, some sit with their legs crossed, and some sit with their heads pushed forward because they work at a computer. Each of these postures can lead to back problems. If you make your living sitting down-either at a desk or behind a steering wheel-try using a low back support pillow in your chair or seat. It’s also important to keep your feet flat on the floor when you’re seated. And, finally, low heels are better for you back than high heels.
5. Get regular back care from your healthcare providers. Do receive regular care from your healthcare team, which may include orthopedic, osteopathic, or chiropractic physicians as well as physical, occupational and massage therapists. Athletic trainers are also great members of your back healthcare team.
Lisa has been helping people overcome pain and injury for more than two decades as a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist and teacher. In her 20-plus-year occupational therapy career, she has held a variety of positions as therapist, therapy supervisor and therapy instructor. She has experience in geriatric care and has practiced in home and outpatient as well as clinical settings.