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Simple Ways to Avoid Back Injuries

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Back pain is a very common ailment among thousands of people every day. It does not have to rule your life or compromise your way of living if you can learn to employ some simple techniques and measures to avoid the back injuries that contribute to the nagging pain in the first place.

Back injuries do not have to come as a result of something traumatic, like a sports injury or an automobile accident, either. If you sit at a desk all day, you are at risk for some sort of back injury or lingering pain. Simple every day tasks performed can pose a risk of back injury.

It is important to keep stress and weight off of your spine, either when engaging in demanding physical activities or when in a sedentary position. On the web site www.everydayhealth.com, Dr. Nick Sharmie, associate professor of spine surgery at the UCLA School of Medicine, notes that it is important to pay attention to proper body mechanics. If not, the spine will be subjected to forces that can contribute to back injury and back pain. In other words, pay attention to how your spine works when lifting, sitting, walking, standing, and even sleeping.

According to Dr. Sharmie, when lifting something, be sure to engage your legs as opposed to your back. “Keep your back straight rather than bending at the waist,” he advises. “Do not bend at the waist and lift with your back.”

To avoid a back injury, think through how you will lift something and position your feet at least shoulder-width apart. You need a wide base of support. When lifting the object, keep it close to your body to avoid excess stress on the spine and back muscles.

Sharmie also advises strongly against twisting your body while lifting. With the winter months creeping upon us, many will be out shoveling the snow off of their driveways. Sharmie cautions that “twisting your back while loading it with weight is one of the worst things you can do.” When you go out to shovel that walk, point your toes in the direction of where you intend to toss the snow off the shovel. You definitely do not want to shovel, twist, and toss. That is a back injury just waiting to happen!

Be sure to exercise proper posture when standing or sitting. Slouching puts added pressure on your back that can stress your spine as the surrounding muscles tire. This can cause spinal discs to deteriorate or nerves to become pinched.

When in a sitting position, sit up straight with your back against the back of the chair. Your shoulders should be straight, and your feet should be flat on the floor. Make sure you position your knees and hips at a 90 degree angle. If you can, use a chair that provides ample lumbar support.

Although it is easy to do, avoid bending over from a seated position in your chair to pick up something from the floor. In doing so, you are flexing forward and causing the load to be transmitted to the discs in the spine.

When standing, stand tall with your shoulders back, balancing your weight upon your feet. At night, sleep on your side with your knees bent. If you prefer to sleep on your back, put a pillow underneath your knees for added support. A firm mattress is preferable over a softer one, which can cause a back sprain.

According to Kansas City-based massage therapist, Tom Wolford of the Wolford Clinic (www.wolfordclinic.com), in order to avoid straining your upper or middle back section, take 5-15 minutes breaks from your computer or hand-held computing device. Use this time to stretch your upper back and arms. Be sure to exercise your shoulders to strengthen your back muscles. The military is on to something when they command, “Drop and give me twenty!” Push-ups are recommended here!

To avoid a strained lower back, Tom suggests that you keep your exercise routines varied. “Don’t use that elliptical machine repeatedly for 30 minutes every day. Vary your workout!”

At night, be sure to sleep on your side or on your back. “You are not a baby anymore,” explains Tom. “You cannot continue to sleep on your stomach.” Also, it does not hurt to get regular massage therapy. What many consider to be a luxury truly does have significant health benefits.

Add a Comment2 Comments

Pat - Thanks for your comment! I plan to use the info about massage therapy to convince my husband that either (1) he needs to give me regular massages or (2) he needs to get used to the fact that I may get one per month! HA! Wish me luck!

Have a great evening!

November 19, 2009 - 6:50pm
Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Hi Ann - Great advice! Being out of commission from back pain is miserable. I learned a lot from your article, and had no idea that sleeping on one's stomach could cause back problems. Ouch! Of course, I did know that massage can be very helpful - just can't get enough of massage therapy. :-)
Take good care,

November 19, 2009 - 6:30pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.