Back Pain PreventionPrint
The first humans to walk fully upright were probably the first humans to suffer from backaches. It remains, even in this age of high-tech wonders, a bane of human existence. Affecting as many as eight of every 10 American adults at one time or another, back pain is one of our most intrusive, costly and annoying maladies.
While swimmers seem to enjoy relative freedom at least from sport aggravated back pain, runners and cyclists and other recreational to professional athletes are anything but immune to it. Serious athletes, because they tend to be performance and goal oriented are likely to abuse their backs more consistently and to minimize both preventive and corrective measures.
For those who have never had the problem of back pain or who have experienced it but are all better now, congratulations mixed with envy and a caution to be grateful
and not to take your pain free state for granted. Better to take on a conscious, aggressive back health maintenance and pain prevention program now as an integral part of your regular training. It could prove to be one of your most fruitful investments.
Here are some of the basics of keeping a healthy, pain-free back.
If you spend a lot of your day sitting, make sure you have a good chair to sit in with good support for your lower back. Make sure, too, that you sit in it straight, aligned, upright and comfortably positioned over your work. It is best to have your knees higher than your hips.
Occupations involving heavy lifting present the highest risk of back injury and pain. If you are not used to heavy lifting and do it wrong, your chances of winding up with back pain are virtually assured. Moreover, the lifting doesn't have to be very heavy to do damage. People have been known to "throw their backs out" picking up a match from the floor. So if it's a hanky or a case of beer, always bend your knees. Use those strong, well exercised legs to lift, holding the load close to your body. If whatever you are lifting is very heavy, forget macho or feminist assertiveness, get help.
Mattresses are a highly individualized match. Select yours with as much care as you can afford. It should be supportive and allow you to awaken without pain. Generally people who sleep on their back or side with knees bent and with a pillow between them do best.
As much as possible, move. If you stay in one position for long periods,
you are more likely to become stiff and achy.
If you endure high stress in your job or at home, it will often seek out storage space in your body, typically that space will be somewhere in your back. Look for ways to reduce stress or to discover coping mechanisms that will minimize its intensity.
If your day to day regimen includes a regular dose of strenuous exercise and if you are generally pain free, there is no reason why you should alter your chosen path, especially if it is a blend of aerobic and anaerobic activity. But if you, for example are a runner and running is your only form of exercise, sooner or later, your muscles up and down your back and down the backs of your legs are going to tighten up and make your back ever more vulnerable to injury and the inevitable pain that accompanies it.
Both swimming and weight lifting can help to strengthen secondary muscle groups such as your abdominal muscles that will give you a strong, properly aligned back. Other exercises specifically strengthen the muscle groups necessary for a healthy back. These include, while lying flat on the floor, knee to chest raises, half sit-ups or abdominal curls in which you sit up jus enough to lift your shoulder blades off the floor a couple of inches and holding for several seconds. Repeated 35 times a day will provide a solid pain preventive exercise base.
Exercises that elongate key muscles are equally important and should be done immediately after every workout. Remember that your hamstrings, calves and Achilles tendons are all extensions of the muscular system that moves your back. If they are taut and constricting, you back will be equally so.
More than excess weight a protruding gut will eventually pull the lower back into a nasty curve making a chronic low back problem virtually inevitable. Whatever it takes, lose the gut.
You can accomplish a lot for your back just by standing up straight with your belly and your butt tucked in. That posture will tilt your pelvis forward reducing the frontward curve in your lower spine. Practice against a flat wall by standing with the small of your back flat against the wall so that you can't slide your fingers between it and the wall. Take deep breaths in that position for at least 10 seconds. Try to get in 35 of these 10 second drills, a day.
If it is available to you, one of the most pleasant and effective
treatments and preventive therapies is deep muscle massage or neuromuscular therapy or myotherapy. These are all related but distinctive modalities and rest on varied concepts of how the body works and responds to hands-on treatment. But they all can be very effective. Take whichever one you can get. Just make sure the massage involves the deep muscle tissue and that it is deliberate and firm and slow enough so that the muscles actually relax. Finally and most importantly, use whatever muscle relaxation you obtain to achieve as full and leisurely a stretch of the critical muscle groups as possible.
Remember: Strength and flexibility are the twin companions of a healthy, functional back that is the foundation of all around fitness and health.