According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, eight out of 10 Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives.
What causes back injuries?
Back injuries are often brought on by seemingly innocuous activities such as:
- Lifting and moving children, boxes or furniture
- Working in a stooped position
- Improperly bending at the waist
- Twisting at the waist
- Sitting or slouching
Preventing back injuries
It’s much easier to prevent a back injury than to fix one. There are three keys to preventing back injuries:
- Good positioning
- Good posture
- Good overall health
Positioning refers to how you lift (straight, bent or twisted). We’ve all heard that you’re supposed to bend at the knees and not the waist when you’re lifting something. The reason has to do with basic physics. When a person bends at the waist to pick up an object, it multiplies the load factor on the lower back by 10.
In other words, if you pick up a 25-pound child while bent at the waist, that 25-pound child becomes equivalent to 250 pounds on your lower back. That is in addition to supporting your own weight. And it gets more dangerous if the child happens to be moving toward or away from you while you’re attempting to grab and lift them.
Now, add a twisting motion to this scenario and you could be at risk for disc pulverization. Over time, this abuse can have a cumulative effect. One day, your back may decide it’s had enough and something will go painfully wrong.
The Mayo Clinic offers this advice on proper positioning:
- Start in a squatting or kneeling position.
- Lift with your legs, not your back.
- Keep your lower back curved.
- Position yourself close to the load.
- Do not twist under the load.
It's also important to recognize your limitations. If something seems too heavy for you to lift on your own, you won’t be able to. You’ll just pay for trying.
Good posture means keeping your spinal column in its naturally curved state. Your back is designed to maintain its natural curve while remaining parallel to your body. Alter that posture and you increase your odds of injury.
Here are a few tips for maintaining good posture while seated:
- Adjust your chair height so your knees are level with your hips.
- Position your monitor at eye level.
- Use a rolled towel or lumbar roll to support the curve of your lower back.
- Bend your knees at a right angle.
- Keep your feet on the floor or use a footrest.
Lastly, the importance of maintaining good overall health cannot be overstated. Carrying extra weight, not getting enough exercise or not stretching to loosen up muscles before working them can all lead to discomfort and pain.
When it comes to your back, you can avoid lifelong regrets by taking these simple precautions.
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