How To Reduce The Chances of Getting Lower Back Pain

March 10, 2010 Back Pain


Unless you have a trauma incident and can easily pinpoint a moment when you caused damage to your back, it is often very difficult to know exactly what causes lower back pain. Normally it is an accumulation of a number of factors that have developed over time. So how can we reduce the chances of getting lower back pain in the first place?

When researching this article I came across a wonderful site from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in America. It has done significant research on the issue of back pain and its causes and I make no apologies for replicating some of their findings below.

Long periods of inactivity (like sitting at a desk for 10 hours a day) and misuse seems to be the main reasons for a weakening of the back muscles which are so essential in protecting the musculoskeletal system we all depend upon. A program of regular exercise like walking, cycling or swimming will greatly increase muscle strength and flexibility and should be tailored to a person’s age and general well-being.

Other pointers to consider that protect the lower back include:

  1. Before exercise or any other strenuous physical activity, always stretch your back and abdomen;
  2. Don’t slouch when standing or sitting. When standing, keep your weight balanced on your feet. Your back supports weight most easily when curvature is reduced;
  3. At home or work, make sure your work surface is at a comfortable height for you with your forearms being as close as possible at 90° to your body.
  4. Sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper position and height for the task. Keep your shoulders back. Switch sitting positions often and periodically walk around the office or gently stretch muscles to relieve tension.
  5. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
  6. Sleep on your side to reduce any curve in your spine. Always sleep on a firm though not overly hard surface.
  7. Always ask for help when transferring heavy or awkward shaped weights – regardless of how big and strong you think you are!
  8. Don’t try to lift objects that are too heavy for you. Lift with your knees, pull in your stomach muscles, and keep your head down and in line with your straight back. Keep the object close to your body. Do not twist when lifting.
  9. Eat well to prevent excessive weight, especially weight around the waistline that taxes lower back muscles. A diet with sufficient daily intake of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D helps to promote new bone growth.
  10. If you smoke, quit. Smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine and causes the spinal discs to degenerate.

Most of NINDS findings and recommendations are pure common sense. If we all heeded their advice and took a little more care we the individual and the country as a whole would be much better off. Currently, back pain costs the NHS and community care services more than £1 billion each year. Using a decent ergonomic chair and having a mind to your working environment is an excellent place to start.

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