As we age, our bodies inevitably get a bit weaker and more fragile. While back pain might be a common occurrence in the American population, it doesn’t mean you should just lie back and “deal with it,” or worse, expect that there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. Here are a few tips on how to avoid the most common cause of back pain – a herniated disc.
A herniated disc (also referred to as a slipped or ruptured disc) refers to a spinal injury in which one of the vertebra slips out of alignment, compressing a nerve and creating a great deal of back pain as a result. While most herniated discs can be treated without surgery – they’re no fun, can take a long time to heal and cause considerable pain in the process.
It’s actually pretty easy to avoid back injuries like herniated discs by staying active, limber, standing and sitting with good posture and lifting heavy objects correctly.
If you exercise regularly and incorporate stretching into your workout routine, you’re doing more for yourself than just making sure that you still fit into your jeans. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight reduces the burden on your spine and the muscles surrounding it. This will help those muscles keep your spine in alignment, rather than pulling at it unevenly.
If, in addition to twenty minutes of cardiovascular exercise, you include a few minutes of stretching and/or yoga poses with your routine each day, you’ll strengthen your back muscles and improve your balance. Strong core muscles are armed guards against back pain.
Posture is also important. If you engage your abdominal muscles and consciously pull your shoulders back and down – you can think of it as pulling them down away from your ears – you’ll protect your back from injury.
People who sit in front of a computer all day for work are in real danger of sustaining back injuries. For one thing, this kind of work is sedentary for most of the day. Sitting for long periods is the enemy of spine health. Whenever possible, get up, walk around and stretch if you can.
Unless you have a 24-hour personal assistant at your beck and call, you will likely need to lift something heavy at some point. Doing it right can mean the difference between simply checking a chore off your list and dealing with weeks of pain, stiffness and spine injury. If you bend at the waist to pick things up, even objects that aren’t extremely heavy, you’re putting the entire burden of your own weight and the weight of the object you’re lifting on your spine. You’re also curving your back, putting it in a weaker position. This kind of lifting technique is bound to lead to injury.
Whenever you’re picking anything up off the ground, you should keep your back straight and bend at the knees. This will keep your spine in alignment, allowing you to use the muscles in your legs and arms, rather than just dangling the weight of whatever you’re picking up from your back.
While the above may seem like a lot to remember, doing these things consistently over time will help you avoid the danger of sustaining a slipped disc. And if you’ve never experienced that kind of spine pain before, ask someone who has. I’m confident they’ll tell you these recommendations are worth the commitment.