Written by: Eric Chludzinski, DC
Being aware of what to do for your back pain is very important but equally as important is knowing what NOT to do.
We all know it’s important to maintain good back health by doing things that help strengthen it and avoid the things that cause harm… this is just common sense. However, what are the things we need to avoid and what are some simple things we can do to prevent back problems from occurring in the first place?
Most people are aware of the “lift with the legs” motto, which means bending your knees when lifting something. But there are also some other gems you need to know to avoid a back injury. First, the back disks are highly pressurized (full of water) especially first thing in the morning. This makes your back more stiff. It also makes stresses on the disc more substantial with lifts. So if possible, avoid lifting heavy things or in stooped awkward positions, first thing in the morning. If you have a choice of doing laundry first thing in the morning or at night, do it at night.
Additionally, because the spinal discs are mostly composed of water it’s important to drink lots and lots of water throughout the day to keep your discs hydrated. As a general rule drinking half your body weight in ounces per day is a good guideline to follow.
Keep in mind when you’re lifting something awkward or heavy it’s important to get some help. There’s no point in trying to be superman or superwoman and test the limits of your back strength. A second person helping could save you a trip to our office.
Another “don’t” for the low back is to avoid sitting as much as possible. While some jobs make this difficult, there’s no reason to follow eight hours of sitting at the job with four hours of evening sitting at home. The back craves and thrives on motion, especially walking. Why not go for a thirty-minute walk after dinner, instead of being a couch or chair potato? The spine is architecturally designed for walking. This is where it is at its optimum. Sitting in a chair is a very unnatural position for the lumbar spine. The walking, while helpful for the back, can also pay dividends for your heart health and longevity.
Avoid exercises that create flexion (bending forward at the hips) of the spine such as sit-ups, crunches and various abdominal machines at the gym. Instead focus on strengthening your core through non-flexion exercises such as planks or roll outs.
Another important “do” for the low back is stretching. Simple stretching for 15 seconds each, the calves (lower legs), hamstrings (back of the thighs) and quadriceps (front of the legs), can help to keep the back flexible. Recall that we are supposed to lift with the legs. If the legs muscles are tight and/or weak, then the low back is going to take up much more of the weight and stress, increasing your risk for injury.
Daily foam rolling is useful in keeping your spinal muscles and tendons loose and free of restriction. It will also help to draw out any bad inflammatory chemicals from the muscle fibers. Adding this simple tool a few minutes a day will help to reinvigorate the spine.
Lastly, periodic spinal check-ups with your Chiropractor and/or Physical Therapist to ensure proper alignment and movement is essential to maintaining spinal health.
These are some essential “do’s” and “don’ts” to consider when caring for your spine. A little attention can go a long way into improving your quality of living and prevent a serious injury.
If you’d like to discuss this information more specifically for your spinal type and condition, or have concerns about injuries you’ve suffered in the past, just call (732) 345-1377 to make an appointment. We have offices located in Red Bank and Wall, NJ. Consultations are always complimentary. Adhering to a few good spinal “hygiene” principals can do a lot to maintain spinal health and keep your visits to our office to a minimum. Prevention is the key to good health.