Lower back pain is an enormous burden on society with up to 80% of us being affected by lower back pain in our lifetime. Having personally suffered from debilitating lower back pain while a university student for 2-3 years, I find it easy to empathise with lower back pain sufferers.
The experience of suffering lower back pain is often accompanied by fear, anxiety, confusion, and well-meaning advice from friends and loved ones, about what they did and therefore you should do, in order to beat your back pain. Unfortunately such varying and non-specific advice tends to produce even more overwhelm in the back pain sufferer-leaving them worse off, and in often a more confused and frustrated state than before.
In this post I will share with you 10 proven guidelines that will help you to prevent lower back pain.
1.Exercise regularly. Exercise promotes muscle conditioning. Aerobic activities such as cycling, swimming, or running-all serve to strengthen and condition the lower back musculature. Abdominal and back strengthening exercises will help to protect the back from injury – these can be performed as part of a home routine or at a gym facility.
2.Be aware of how you lift heavy objects. Lifting and twisting is perhaps the most common mechanism that injures lower back structures, such as the intervertebral discs. I have seen thousands of people who have injured their lower back in this manner. What’s more, the weight of the object being lifted is insignificant as injuries can occur with everything from lifting a toothbrush through to lifting a back yard BBQ. In order to avoid injury, get the objects close to your body and avoid lifting and twisting. Lift first in the direction that you want to go – this will avoid the twisting component of movement and promote a safer lift.
3.Maintain Good Posture. Slouched postures in sitting and standing position add extra loads (creep deformation) to the structures of the lower back, such as supporting ligaments that line the spine. These extra loads will heighten the risk of injury to your lower back – so sit up tall at your desk and stand up tall when you stand (your mother was right!)
4.Watch your body weight. I educate clients a lot about the need to maintain their body weight within safe parameters. I call this the ‘frame weight concept’. Carrying an extra 5 or 10kgs on a person’s ‘frame’ (body) will serve to markedly increase the loads that the lower back is subjected to, and these greater loads result in an increased risk of injury.
5.Avoid wearing high heels. Wearing high heels increases the loading and therefore the injury risk to the lower back. I educate female clients that heels are OK if worn in moderation but the wearing of high heels must be followed by periods of calf stretching to remedy the tightness in the calf muscles that wearing high heels produces.
6.Sleep soundly. The best mattresses for preventing lower back pain and soreness are mattresses that are firm. Firm mattresses better buttress the spine and prevent sagging into the mattress, which can increase stiffness and therefore pain levels in the spine. The best position for a healthy lower back in bed is lying on your side, if possible with a pillow between the knees.
7.Don’t make your bed! That’s right – avoid making your bed, and any other bending and twisting movements first thing in the morning. You are particularly at risk of injuring your lower back first thing in the morning because your discs are in essence more ‘full of fluid’ from the preceding night’s sleep. This is normal but it pays to be aware and cautious during the first hour upon rising as it can be a danger zone.
8.Don’t smoke. We all recognise that smoking is seldom a wise health choice in terms of many diseases and negative effects that it produces. However, few people are aware that smoking has been linked to higher levels of both neck and lower back pain too. So for the sake of your health and spine as well as everything else, stay away from cigarettes.
9.Relax. Being stressed or depressed has been linked to a heightened susceptibility to sustaining and suffering from lower back injuries and pain. Both actioning and being aware of the preceding 8 points will assist with one’s mental mood and state. If you suspect you may be suffering from depression, don’t delay seeking medical assistance.
10.Avoid prolonged periods of sitting. When you are on a roll with a project or work task it can be very easy to sit fixed to your laptop or computer screen. However, doing so does not do your lower back any favours. Research has shown that regular small breaks for prolonged sitting aids in decreasing the risk of lower back pain or injury. Alternately, long continuous periods of computer use increases both loads on the lower back and also the risk of injury.
For a deeper understanding regarding the causes of lower back pain click through here for a 7 minute video clip where I outline the 6 chief causes of lower back pain.