The best way to avoid getting back pain is to keep your back strong and supple. Regular exercise, maintaining good posture and using correct lifting techniques can all help achieve this.
If back pain is a recurrent problem, the following advice may be useful:
- Lose weight – carrying excess upper body weight can put strain on the lower back
- Wear flat shoes with cushioned soles, which can help reduce pressure on your back
- Avoid making sudden movements which can lead to muscle strain
- Try to lower stress, anxiety and tension, all of which are causes of back pain
- Take regular exercise
Exercise is an ideal way of preventing and reducing back pain. Walking and swimming, for example, strengthen the muscles that support your back without putting any strain on it. Yoga or pilates can improve the flexibility and strength of your back muscles but it is crucial that you perform these activities under the guidance of an appropriately qualified instructor.
Here are some easy exercises you can do at home to help prevent or relieve back pain.
- Wall slides – stand with your back against a wall and your feet shoulder-width apart. Lower down into a crouch so that your knees are bent to around 90 degrees. Count to five and then slide back up the wall. Repeat five times.
- Leg raises – lying flat on your back, lift each heel in turn just off the floor while keeping your legs straight. Repeat five times.
- Bottom lifts – lying flat on your back, bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Lift your bottom in the air by tightening your stomach muscles while keeping your back straight. Repeat five times.
Initially, you should do these exercises once or twice a day, before gradually increasing to six times a day, as feels comfortable.
These exercises are also useful for warming up your back before doing common chores at home or work, such as lifting or gardening. Warming up your back prior to starting these chores can help prevent injury.
How you sit, stand and lie down has an important effect on your back. These helpful tips should help you maintain a good posture.
Stand upright, with your head facing forward and back straight. Balance your weight evenly on both feet and keep your legs straight.
Ensure you sit upright with support in the small of your back. Your knees and hips should be level and your feet should be flat on the floor (use a footstool if necessary). You may find it useful to use a small cushion or rolled-up towel to support the small of the back.
If you use a keyboard, ensure that your forearms are horizontal and your elbows are at right angles.
Ensure your lower back is properly supported. Correctly positioning your mirrors will prevent you from having to twist around. The foot pedals should be squarely in front of your feet.
When driving long distances, take regular breaks to stretch your legs.
Your mattress should be firm enough to support your body while supporting the weight of your shoulders and buttocks, keeping your spine straight. You should support your head with a pillow, ensuring your neck is not forced up at a steep angle.
Lifting and handling
One of the most common causes of back injury is lifting or handling objects incorrectly. Learning and following the correct method for lifting and handling objects can help prevent back pain. You should:
- think before you lift – can you manage the lift? Are there any handling aids you can use? Where is the load going?
- start in a good position – your feet should be apart, with one leg slightly forward to maintain balance; when lifting, let your legs take the strain – bend your back, knees and hips slightly, but do not stoop or squat; tighten your stomach muscles to pull your pelvis in; do not straighten your legs before lifting as you may strain your back on the way up
- keep the load close to your waist – keep the load as close to your body for as long as possible with the heaviest end nearest to you
- avoid twisting your back or leaning sideways, particularly when your back is bent – your shoulders should be level and facing in the same direction as your hips; turning by moving your feet is better than lifting and twisting at the same time
- keep your head up – once you have the load secure, look ahead, not down at the load
- know your limits – there is a big difference between what you can lift and what you can safely lift; if in doubt, get help
- push rather than pull – if you have to move a heavy object across the floor, it is better to push it rather than pull it
- distribute the weight evenly – if you are carrying shopping bags or luggage, try to distribute the weight evenly on both sides of your body