Back pain can present in various ways including dull aches and sharp stabbing pains. No matter how it makes you feel, it can make working and performing other daily tasks difficult. It can also affect your mood and quality of sleep. Unfortunately, it is not just medical conditions that can cause back pain.
Quite often poor habits like sitting down for extended periods, repetitive motions and incorrect lifting of heavy loads can all cause injuries that lead to back problems. Many occupations involve activities that cause or worsen back pain and hence the need to understand why and what you can do to prevent this from happening to you.
Causes of back pain
Back injuries can be caused or influenced by different factors. These can include:
- Weight – carrying excess body weight can cause your back to strain and increase the risk of injury when performing even mundane tasks. Maintaining a healthy weight can go a long way to minimising stress on your back and provide your body with the nutrients it needs to grow and sustain strong and healthy bones.
- Force – overexerting your back by lifting objects that are too heavy or using the wrong lifting technique can cause injuries.
- Repetition – repeating motions that are unnatural to your spine, forcing it to twist and rotate, can cause back injuries. This can apply even if you are carrying light objects.
- Inactivity – being sedentary and sitting or lying down for an extended period can increase the risk of back pain. More so if you maintain bad posture and lack back support when remaining seated.
- Smoking – smoking introduces nicotine into the body, which causes blood vessels to narrow. With reduced blood flow to the spine, a person can develop degenerative conditions that make it harder to recover from back injuries.
These are just some of the common factors that can impact the possibility of suffering back injuries and how well you recover from them. Let us now look at the best practices that can help in preventing these injuries.
How to prevent back injuries
1. Maintain good posture
It is crucial to be mindful of your posture and movements, even when it comes to simple tasks. As said, repetition of movements while having bad posture can cause or worsen back injuries. Keep aware of how you perform tasks, sit, and stand even when doing such everyday tasks as working at your desk or taking out the garbage. If your job requires you to sit at a desk for long hours, form a habit of taking breaks to walk around and stretch. Also, invest in an ergonomically correct chair and desk that will support better posture.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese can put extra strain on your back. It can also make it difficult to achieve and maintain good posture. Shedding the extra weight can go a long way in reducing your risk of suffering back injuries. This is best accomplished by eating a healthy portion-controlled diet and exercising regularly. Your diet should include the nutrients necessary to growing and sustaining healthy bones.
Regular exercise can help in achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight which will reduce the risk of back injuries. It will also make you better able to maintain good posture and perform different complex and simple movements without fear of injuring your back. Exercises that strengthen and stretch back muscles will make your back strong and improve your balance. Consider an exercise program that combines aerobic activity with strength training for the best results.
4. Lift correctly
This is especially important for those in jobs that require frequent lifting like nursing and construction work. When lifting a heavy object, try to get as close as possible before taking grasp and then bend your knees and tighten your stomach muscles. Allow your legs to support your body as you lift and keep the object as close as possible to your trunk. Avoid twisting as you lift. This will allow your back to retain its natural curve. If the object is too heavy or if you have knee problems, do not overexert yourself. Get someone else to help you or use equipment like a dolly trolley to transport the object.
5. Try sleeping on your side
Sleeping on your side in the foetal position is best for your back. If you have to sleep on your back, ensure that it is in a reclined position or with a pillow beneath the small of your back, Avoid sleeping on your stomach, but if you have to, place a pillow underneath your stomach to ease the pressure off your back. Be sure to complement this with a supportive mattress and pillow for the best results.
6. Reduce stress
Mental and emotional stress can worsen pain symptoms. Feelings of stress can also cause tension in muscles which can result in back pain. Engaging in activities that can relieve stress can be helpful to those prone to back injuries. Consider taking up activities like meditation, yoga, tai chi and others that will relieve these feelings.
7. Take it easy
If you are prone to back injuries, do not overexert yourself. Avoid taking on huge tasks that will require heavy lifting, repetitive bending and other movements that can place strain on your back. Pace yourself by spreading out these tasks over a longer period or have someone else help you.
8. Consult your doctor
There are lots of exercises that purport to help with back injuries to be found online. However, many are geared towards tackling specific back conditions that you may not have. They could end up injuring your back further. It is best to consult with your doctor who can advise you on the best exercise routines to adopt, alternatively get in touch with an Osteopath, or other specialist that can better guide you on this.