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Protecting Your Back

Have you ever felt low back pain after doing too much the day before? One of the major causes of low back pain is repetitive injury to the spine. Repetitive injuries can be as simple as picking up boxes or having to bend down to scrub and clean the house. Understanding the causes of back injuries and the tools you can use to prevent them is the first step in protecting your back.

We often feel that we have done too much and then only later or the next day do we experience some aches or muscle soreness. While the discomfort usually goes away in a day or two, your body is telling you that there was straining and microscopic tearing of muscle tissue, causing inflammation. Microscopic tears and inflammation if allowed to occur repetitively can result in the potential for long term problems in the future.

Weakness in the back and abdominal muscles are the main causes of most back injuries. With hours of sitting each day while at work, watching TV, or driving, your gluteus muscles and abdominal muscles become weak. Under normal healthy conditions these critical core muscles give stability to your spine keeping it protected from unnecessary stress and strain. But, when your core muscles are weak and you challenge your body with repetitive bending or lifting, your gluteus, abdominal, and spinal muscles just can’t cope with the repetitive stress and spinal strain occurs. Over years of repetitive strains, this can lead to major damage such as herniated discs, arthritis, and chronic back or posture issues.

What can you do to protect your back?

  • Stay active! Walking 20-30 minutes each day, can significantly increase the strength and mobility of your spine; reducing back pain.
  • Bend and lift properly. Using the correct techniques when bending and lifting objects will significantly reduce your risk for back injuries. Here are the 10 steps to take when bending and lifting any object.
  1. Spread your feet apart to give your body a wide base of support.
  2. Stand as close as possible to the object you are lifting.
  3. Bend at your knees, not at your waist or back.
  4. Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the object up or lower it down.
  5. Hold the object as close to your body as you can.
  6. Slowly lift, using your muscles in your hips and knees.
  7. As you stand up with the object, do not bend forward.
  8. Do not twist your back while you bend to reach the object, lift the object, or carry the object.
  9. Squat as you set the object down, using the muscles in your knees and hips, still keeping the object as close as possible.
  10. If the object you are lifting is too heavy to lift without straining your back or legs, get additional help to lift or move that object.
  • Have good posture. This is especially important when sitting at your desk for extended periods of time. If you need to, roll up a very small towel and place it in the curve of your lower back. Keep the chair close enough so that you are able to sit up straight while looking at a computer monitor.
  • Improve your core muscle strength. Improving your core strength can help support your low back and spine when moving and lifting. Check out our recent blog on ‘Increasing Core Strength to Relieve Pain’ to learn how improving core strength can help you. And contact your local Physical Therapist to schedule your personal evalaution and get started on the right exercises to strengthen your core.
  • Stand tall. A bad habit these days is to hold your phone down low and look down at it while you are browsing on it. Hold your phone further up in front of you so that your spine is not bent forward when standing. This will protect your back and neck.
  • Take breaks. One of the best ways to prevent low back pain is to breaks from sitting. For every 20-30 minutes that you are sitting, get up and move around for at least 1 minute.
  • Stretch throughout the day, especially your hamstrings as these directly pull on your pelvis, affecting your spine. Also, reach above your head to stretch out your shoulders, mid and upper back.
  • Have a regular check up. Don’t forget to visit your physical therapist. You go for regular check ups at your dentist or doctor, but why not your physical therapist? Physical therapists are the expert mechanics of the body, keeping it running and moving well. Yearly check-ups are key to maintaining a healthy, moving spine.
  • In you have pain, don’t put off seeing a physical therapist.  At any sign of back strain or injury, don’t wait to contact your physical therapist. Studies show that the sooner you are seen after a back strain or injury, the quicker you will heal and the less long term problems you will have. In many states physical therapists can be seen via direct access – this means that you do not need to wait to be seen by your physician or have a prescription to schedule with your physical therapist.

You take care of your heart and lungs, but what about your spine? As anyone with back pain will tell you, life is very limited when you have back pain. Therefore, take care of your back and it will take care of you.

There is much that can be done to relieve sciatica, back or neck pain. Physical therapy should always be tried first if your back pain keeps on coming back. Click here to discover how our back and neck program can give you the fast relief you deserve and restore your active life. If you are experiencing back pain or have any questions on how physical therapy can help you recover from back pain or injury, call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center today at 703-450-4300 to speak with one of our physical therapy specialists.

“Don’t let pain limit you. We Care. We Listen. We Get RESULTS!”