Back pain is the most common cause of missed work, and 8 out of 10 people will experience it at least once in their lives. Back injuries range from aggravating to serious to severe, but most of them are completely avoidable with the right steps. While chiropractors can help treat the problem once it occurs, it’s a far better choice to take a proactive stance and avoid back pain and injury in the first place. Not sure what you should do? Below, you’ll find 12 important tips for avoiding pain and discomfort.
1. Lift Correctly
This tip has been repeated so often that it should be common knowledge, but given the number of lifting related back injuries each year, it bears repeating. Lift the correct way. Lift with your legs, not your back. Rather than bending at the waist to grasp the object, squat down and then raise yourself back up with your legs. Work as a team with heavier loads. Never attempt to lift a very heavy load by yourself. Finally, avoid twisting while lifting, as this can cause serious damage. If necessary, wear a back brace/belt when lifting.
2. Find Another Place to Put Your Wallet
Most men carry their wallet in a back pocket. It seems to make sense, at least superficially. You have your keys in one of the front pockets, and probably carry your cell phone in the other. However, did you know that keeping your wallet in your back pocket could be causing you pain? When you sit on a wallet, your hips and spine are out of alignment – your hips are higher on the side with the wallet. This creates discomfort at first, but can lead to serious issues over time. Find somewhere else to carry that wallet.
3. Wear Clothes That Fit
Sure, skinny jeans might be all the rage now, but did you know that tight clothing could actually cause problems with your back? Clothing that restricts bending and movement puts additional strain on your body. Even sitting in skinny jeans could be doing a number on your back. Opt for clothes that fit correctly, with enough room to allow easy movement.
4. Sleep Hard
Many people think the ideal mattress is one that’s soft and giving. However, while it might feel nice, it’s actually the wrong choice. Soft mattresses can cause very real problems with your back. Instead, opt for a hard or at least firm mattress. Pay attention to how you sleep, as well, and avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this can lead to neck and shoulder problems.
Getting the right amount of exercise is vital to maintaining your weight and improving your health, but did you know that walking can actually alleviate back pain, and help prevent it in the first place? Physical exercise strengthens muscles, helping you do more without becoming fatigued or causing pain. It also helps you lose weight, which puts less stress on your back. Walking also has a lower impact than running, so you won’t put any additional stress or strain on your feet, ankles or knees.
6. Get Lumbar Support
Whether you’re driving to work or sitting at your desk, the right back support is essential. You need a chair with lumbar support. If your current vehicle doesn’t offer this, you can buy a seat cover/padding that ensures you have support where you need it.
7. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential to bone health. Make sure you’re getting the right amount. Take a multivitamin, but also make sure you’re getting daily exposure to direct sunlight. You can also get additional vitamin D through fortified milk and other dairy products.
8. Don’t Carry a Briefcase
You may feel that you need to carry a briefcase (or a heavy bag or purse) for work, but chances are good that’s putting a lot of strain on your shoulders and spine. Rather than a conventional handheld briefcase, opt for a messenger bag that can be slung over the shoulder. This will help keep the weight distributed evenly and ensure that you’re not putting additional strain on your back.
9. Setup Your Workstation Correctly
There’s a lot of benefit to be had by ensuring your workplace is set up ergonomically. Position the computer monitor correctly so that it’s at eye level. You’ll need a good wrist rest for the keyboard, and you should ensure that your wrists aren’t bent the wrong way when typing. Finally, your knees should be at 90-degree angles and your spine should be neutral when sitting at your desk.
10. Never Sit for an Hour
This one might sound hard to achieve, particularly if you work in an office and have to sit down for the majority of your day. However, if you get up once per hour for 10 to 15 minutes, you’ll help avoid strain to your back and reduce the chance of pain at the same time.
11. Stress Less
Most of us are pretty stressed in our daily lives. Our hectic, fast-paced lifestyles make it impossible to de-stress at times. The human body tends to carry stress in the neck, shoulders and back. Tight, tense muscles are painful, and this can lead to problems over time. Take time to unwind and reduce stress in your life. This can be done with any number of methods, from meditation to jogging to reading to photography. Find something in which to immerse yourself and let the cares of the day wash away.
12. Kick the Smokes
If you’re a smoker, you’re at an increased risk for a wide range of health problems, including back pain. Smoking not only makes current back pain worse, but can put you at greater risk for developing it in the first place. One way it does this is by narrowing the blood vessels in the body, which reduces oxygen and nutrient flow to muscles and tissues, slowing healing and leading to poor health.
Avoiding back pain isn’t always possible, but with the tips listed above, you should be better prepared.