Most people take their backs for granted until something goes wrong. Don’t wait to become one of the 80 percent of people affected by back problems. Start babying your back today to avoid back problems tomorrow.
Watch out for bad posture. Practice good posture at all times — keep your back straight, not arched, and your shoulders level. Don’t slump even when you’re relaxing. If you have to stand for long periods, rest one foot on a low stool and shift your weight often. Wear comfortable shoes with good support and low heels. Change positions frequently, no matter what you’re doing.
Sit up straight. Choose a chair that gives your lower back good support. Add a small cushion or rolled up towel to the small of your back, even when you’re driving. Sit properly with both feet on the floor or on a low stool, and keep your hips and legs at a 90-degree angle. Keep your chair close enough to your desk so you don’t have to lean forward. If you spend a lot of time sitting, get up now and then to stretch.
Practice safe lifting. Keep your spine straight. Either squat, bending your knees, or bend at the hips — not the waist. Use your arms and legs to lift and keep the object close to your body.
Enjoy restful sleep. If you sleep on your back, put a pillow under your knees. If you sleep on your side, keep your knees bent.
Stop smoking. Smoking has been linked to many back disorders. Researchers say smoking makes bones weaker by slowing the production of new bone cells. Weak bones can cause back pain.
Maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, lose those extra pounds. They are putting even more pressure on your spine.
Get some exercise. The best way to prevent back pain and injury is to strengthen the muscles that surround and support your spine. Here are four exercises that will help you steer clear of back pain. Do your back workout at least three days a week, beginning with two or three repetitions and working up to 10 for each exercise.
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat. Suck in your stomach muscles and lift your seat off the floor. Starting at your shoulders, relax your back and slowly flatten it against the floor. Hold your back flat against the floor for a count of five and then relax.
Beginning in the same position, fold your arms across your chest. Lift your head and shoulders slowly off the floor to a 45-degree angle, trying to feel the pull in your stomach muscles, not your neck. Hold for a count of five, then relax. Lie flat on your back with both legs out straight. Grab one knee and pull it straight back toward your chest. Point your foot toward your head. Hold for a count of five, then repeat with the other leg.
Lie flat on your back with both knees bent. Lift one leg toward the ceiling with your knee straight and your foot pointed toward your head. Stretch your leg as far as possible over your head, holding for a count of five. Relax, and repeat with the other leg.
These no-sweat exercises are easy, simple, and can be down at home or on the go. Don't forget: Always check with your doctor before doing any exercises or movements that could worsen your back pain. With the right tender loving care, you can say good-bye to back pain and hello to a better, stronger you.