By Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)
80% of all Canadians will suffer at least
one significant episode of back pain in their lives. Back pain can negatively impact an
individual’s work, recreational, and social life. Back pain prevention can go a long way in
reducing the risk of injury. Below are some
tips on how to overcome some of the common everyday activities that can contribute
to back pain.
1. Improper lifting is a risk factor associated with back pain. There are several strategies that should be employed during
lifting activities. Maintaining the
natural curve/hollow (lordosis) of your low back is important, as this is its
strongest and most secure position.
Avoid awkward postures such as bending, reaching, and twisting/turning. Whenever possible, you should square your
body toward the object being lifted, turn your whole body by moving your feet,
and keep the object close to your body.
Contracting your abdominal muscles during lifting, lowering, and moving
activities improves spinal stability, referred to as bracing. You should also bend at the legs and not the
waist, lifting slowly and smoothly, not jerking. Minimizing lift load and exposure, taking
mini-breaks, and job rotations can also be helpful. The use of assistive devices such as dollies,
handgrips, and pull carts is also recommended.
2. The physical strain of
Most people that sit for prolonged periods of time will eventually adopt
a poor posture that includes losing the natural hollow of the low back,
rounding or slouching forward of the upper back and shoulders, and a forward
head poking position. This can lead to
significant back pain as these less than ideal positions put cumulative
compression and strain on the spine. Take
10 to 30 second stretch or posture breaks every 20 to 40 minutes to make sure
weight is evenly distributed, your shoulders are not rounding forward, and you
are not slouching.
3. Working in stooped
When we keep our backs in a neutral/straight position, the mechanical
load on the spine is considerably lower than when your back is bent
forward. Many activities around the home
and workplace cause you to bend forward and stoop. The longer you work in these forward bent
positions, the more likely you are to experience back problems. In order to minimize the risk of injury, you
should interrupt the stooped position at regular intervals before pain
starts. Trying to find alternative ways
of completing tasks without stooping is ideal.
4. Smoking contributes to an increase in spinal problems. Smoking has been
shown to decrease bone mineral density and increase the risk of osteoporosis
and future fractures. The reduced blood
circulation found in smokers deprives spinal discs of vital nutrients which can
lead to premature degeneration. Smoking
may also provoke disc herniation through coughing. Exposure to secondhand
smoke during childhood may also increase the risk of developing back problems
later in life.
5. Lack of physical activity de-conditions the body. This makes us more
susceptible to cumulative spinal strain and injury. For optimal functioning, your muscles and joints need a steady supply of
Regular exercise increases our functional capacity to withstand
occupational, recreational, and everyday stresses on our back more efficiently,
thereby minimizing the risk of injury.
Decreasing your risk for back pain is the
first step in prevention. For some, back
pain can be dramatically minimized or avoided; while for others it needs to be
managed so that its negative effects on activities of daily living can be
reduced. If you are suffering from back
pain, a qualified health professional can determine the cause of your pain and
prescribe appropriate therapy, exercises, and back sparing strategies
specifically for your circumstance. For
more information visit www.nhwc.ca.
This article is a basic summary for educational
purposes only. It is not intended, and
should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or
treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.