If you are like most people, you will have at least one backache in your life. While such pain or discomfort can happen anywhere in your back, the most common area affected is your low back. This is because the low back supports most of your body’s weight.
Many back-related injuries happen at work. But you can change that. There are many things you can do to lower your chances of getting back pain.
Most back problems will get better on their own. The key is to know when you need to seek medical help and when self-care measures alone will allow you to get better.
Low back pain may be acute (short-term), lasting less than one month, or chronic (long-term, continuous, ongoing), lasting longer than three months. While getting acute back pain more than once is common, continuous long-term pain is not.
Causes of Back Pain:
You’ll usually first feel back pain just after you lift a heavy object, move suddenly, sit in one position for a long time, or have an injury or accident. But prior to that moment in time, the structures in your back may be losing strength or integrity.
The specific structure in your back responsible for your pain is hardly ever identified. Whether identified or not, there are several possible sources of low back pain:
- Aortic aneurysm
- Degeneration of the disks
- Kidney problems, such as infections or stones
- Muscle spasm (very tense muscles that remain contracted)
- Other medical conditions like fibromyalgia
- Poor alignment of the vertebrae
- Ruptured or herniated disk
- Small fractures to the spine from osteoporosis
- Spinal stenosis(narrowing of the spinal canal)
- Spine curvatures (like scoliosis or kyphosis) which may be inherited and seen in children or teens
- Strain or tears to the muscles or ligaments supporting the back
Low back pain from any cause usually involves spasms of the large, supportive muscles alongside the spine. The muscle spasm and stiffness accompanying back pain can feel particularly uncomfortable.
You are at particular risk for low back pain if you:
- Are over age 30
- Are pregnant
- Feel stressed or depressed
- Have a low pain threshold
- Have arthritis or osteoporosis
- Have bad posture
- Smoke, don’t exercise, or are overweight
- Work in construction or another job requiring heavy lifting, lots of bending and twisting, or whole body vibration (like truck driving or using a sandblaster)
Prevention of Lower Back Pain
Exercise is important for preventing future back pain. Through exercise you can:
- Improve your posture
- Strengthen your back and improve flexibility
- Lose weight
- Avoid falls
A complete exercise program should include aerobic activity (like walking, swimming, or riding a stationary bicycle) as well as stretching and strength training.
To prevent back pain, it is also very important to learn to lift and bend properly. Follow these tips:
- If an object is too heavy or awkward, get help.
- Spread your feet apart to give a wide base of support.
- Stand as close to the object you are lifting as possible.
- Bend at your knees, not at your waist.
- Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the object up or lower it down.
- Hold the object as close to your body as you can.
- Lift using your leg muscles.
- As you stand up with the object, DO NOT bend forward.
- DO NOT twist while you are bending for the object, lifting it up, or carrying it.
Other measures to take to prevent back pain include:
- Avoid standing for long periods of time. If you must for your work, try using a stool. Alternate resting each foot on it.
- DO NOT wear high heels. Use cushioned soles when walking.
- When sitting for work, especially if using a computer, make sure that your chair has a straight back with adjustable seat and back, armrests, and a swivel seat.
- Use a stool under your feet while sitting so that your knees are higher than your hips.
- Place a small pillow or rolled towel behind your lower back while sitting or driving for long periods of time.
- If you drive long distance, stop and walk around every hour. Bring your seat as far forward as possible to avoid bending. Don’t lift heavy objects just after a ride.
- Quit smoking.
- Lose weight.
- Learn to relax. Try methods like yoga, tai chi, or massage.
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