Back injuries are one of the most common injuries suffered by both men and women in the United States. The prevalence of back related injuries is due to the fact that the back is made up of a complex set of nerves and structures that work together to support the spine and body. With so many moving parts, there’s more chance for injury. Not to mention, the fact that our back supports the weight of our entire body in many ways, is a lot of pressure (literally and figuratively). Many people move, work, and exercise without much concern for their back. This leads to careless and preventable injury. If you already have back problems or are looking to avoid them all together, keep reading. This article will provide useful information on how to protect your back and prevent unnecessary injury.
Strengthen Your Abs
Having strong abs isn’t just about showing off your six-pack. In fact, your abdominal muscles are what protects your back from injury. The stronger your ab muscles are, the less likely you are to injure your back during exercise or while performing other tasks. Different exercises also strengthen your spine, which helps to avoid injury. When you are stiff or immobile for too long, your more likely to hurt the muscles and nerves in your back.
Avoid Sudden or “Jerky” Movements
Moving carefully is another tip for avoiding back injury. Any time you move too suddenly or do so in an awkward way, the sensitive components that comprise your back are susceptible to injury. Avoid twisting too suddenly or too far. When you twist your body, you’re moving your spine in a way it’s not accustomed to. That’s why doing so must be done with care. If this is during exercise, be sure to warm up the muscles in your back and stomach first. If you’re twisting during work or lifting, do so slowly and pay close attention to how your body reacts. Avoid twisting while holding a heavy object when possible. This places added strain on your back muscles and can more easily lead to unwanted injury or stress to your spine.
Stretching is the perfect way to warm up the muscles in your back and prepare your spine for exercise or movement. Stretching isn’t reserved for just exercise. If you have a long day ahead of standing on your feet, lifting heaving boxes, or performing at type of intense movement, you should stretch beforehand. Here are some of the best back stretches to perform. You should also consider stretching after being stationary for too long. Stiffness in the back, neck, and shoulders often affects those who work desk jobs or spend long hours in the car commuting. On the flip side, if you work on your feet, taking a break to relax your back and feet is equally as important as stretching.
Heavy lifting is one of the main causes of back injury. If you can’t avoid heavy lifting all together, it’s important to follow safety precautions when doing so. The most basic way to protect your back when lifting is to bend your knees. This takes pressure off your back and prevents strain. When you use your legs to support the weight, your back isn’t taking the entire impact. Also keeping the object you’re lifting close to your body gives you a better base of support. You can also invest in a back brace or use other means to lift or move heavy items. Tools to help you include hand trucks or fork lifts.
Sleep in the Right Position
But tips for protecting your back aren’t reserved just for waking hours or even when you’re standing up. Certain sleeping positions can either hurt or protect your back, neck, and shoulders. The best place to start is by taking a body scan. How do you feel when you sleep on your side, back, or stomach? The height and consistency of your pillow has a lot to do with the comfort of your back as well. Pillows that are too high, too soft, or too hard can create stiffness in your neck, which travels down into your back. Try adjusting the way you sleep and see if that helps. It may be a matter of trial and error before you find the best sleep position for your needs.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Another factor that places a lot of strain on your back is your weight. When you’re carrying extra weight in your upper body, primarily in your stomach, it can pull you forward, causing you to hunch over. When you eliminate this weight, it helps avoid compression on your back and its vertebrae. But it’s not just your back that is directly affected by excess weight. An oversized midsection can also cause hip and pelvic displacement.
A body in motion stays in motion and a body at rest stays at rest. That means that the more you move, exercise, and remain active, the less chance your back has to stiffen or seize up causing pain and discomfort. When your back is sedentary or stiff; sudden movements, twisting or long hours on your feet; or being seated are more likely to cause injury than if you are active, flexible, and healthy. Exercise also keeps the muscles near and around the spine strong. Strengthening and tightening your abdominal muscles also helps protect your back. Be sure to incorporate exercises that strengthen your abs and also keep you flexible and agile.
Seek Alternative Methods
Another great way to stay ahead of your back injuries is to promote healthy back health, which can be done in a variety of ways. Some alternative methods of care that help keep your back and spine properly aligned and flexible include chiropractic care, massage, and even acupuncture. Yoga and pilates are two more exercises and alternative ways of keeping your spine healthy and void of unnecessary injury.
Protecting your back from common injuries isn’t just about lifting heavy things carefully and sleeping on the right pillow (though these are important as well). But it’s also about maintaining a healthy overall lifestyle including keeping off unwanted pounds and remaining active.