One of the best ways to avoid office back pain is by maintaining an active lifestyle. Improving physical conditioning, as well as learning and practicing proper body mechanics, can work wonders for your back health. Experts, including Dr. Michael Hisey, orthopedic surgeon and president of the Texas Back Institute in Denton, Texas, have stated that exercise is the best preventative method for back pain.
In the previous installment, we touched on a few simple tips for keeping active in the office, but now we are going to look at things in a broader scope. Regular, low impact aerobic activities increase strength and endurance in your back, which improves the functionality and durability of your muscles. Jogging, swimming and yoga are a few popular choices, but there are many options. Any physical activity that doesn’t strain or jolt your back will work.
Core strengthening exercises, which work on the back and abdominal muscles, can help build muscle strength and flexibility. When conditioned correctly, these muscles can provide a natural brace for your back. Developing flexibility in your hips and upper legs can also help with your back, believe it or not. Working on hips and legs can align your pelvic bones, which improves how your back feels.
The importance of exercise as it relates to back health is not to be understated, and certainly not to be ignored. Being overweight can strain your back muscles, and as we all know, exercise can lead to weight loss. Maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent back pain.
In addition to exercise, simple body mechanics can help prevent back pain as well. When standing, try to maintain a neutral pelvic position. This posture can help alleviate stress from the back muscles. If it is necessary to stand for long periods of time, place one foot on a low foot stool to take the load off your back, alternating feet as needed.
We already touched on the proper way to sit in the previous installment, but it is certainly worth repeating: Try to choose a seat with good lower back support, ideally one with a built in curve to match your spine. If your chair does not have a built in curve, consider using a pillow or rolled up towel. Make sure to keep your knees and hips level, and try to change your position as frequently as possible.
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As I’m sure we can all agree, it is best to avoid heavy lifting completely. Unfortunately, most of us do not have that luxury. Whether you are helping a friend move a couch or simply replacing the bottle at the office water cooler, it is important to use your legs. Bend with your knees, not at the waist, and keep your back straight. Try to keep the object close to you. The further away from your body it is, the more strain you place on your back. Avoid twisting or pivoting, and if you do have to change directions, lead with your feet, not your waist. Try not to hold a heavy item above your armpit or below your knees. When dealing with objects weighing more than 20% of your body weight, it is advisable to team up with a friend or co-worker.
Although chronic back pain is a widespread issue, once you learn about the causes and preventative methods available it becomes easy to turn your back on back pain.