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Tips to Help You Avoid the “oohs” and “ouches” of Back Pain

November 12, 2013

Bonnie Platt DSC00584Physical therapist Bonnie Platt of Masonicare’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Department offers the following advice to help us avoid pain and discomfort in the back. 

Back pain is certainly not a rare experience.  Did you know that 60-80% of the population will experience low back pain at least once in their lifetimes? People all over the world complain with “oohs” and “ouches” brought on by the symptoms experienced from problems and injuries to the lower back. But what causes it? And what can we do to help avoid it?

The lower back is subject to a great deal of mechanical stress and strain, making lower back pain highly prevalent and at times, debilitating. Low back pain can be the result of herniated discs, muscle or ligament strains, spinal fractures, arthritis, scoliosis, or osteoporosis. Although these are all very common disorders, low back pain may develop even without a specific cause.

What better way to avoid back pain symptoms than to try and prevent them from happening in the first place.  Taking action by making the right choices can help.

Here are some suggestions:

1.  Participate in physical exercise, without overdoing it, as often as possible.

2.  Use proper body mechanics when bending, lifting, etc.

3.  Think about your posture – remember to practice good posture at all times.

4.  Maintain a healthy body weight.

5.  Make sure to get enough Vitamin D – it helps to keep our bones strong.

Use proper techniques when lifting objects to avoid hurting the back. It’s a common phrase, but it bears repeating — “lift with the legs.”  Squat to the ground and bring the item up with you, whether it weighs a lot or not. If it’s too heavy to lift properly, ask for assistance.

Unfortunately, something we can’t avoid that can lead to back pain is gravity.  We don’t see or feel it, but it’s pushing down on us all the time. To remain upright and strong, your spine needs both the abdominal muscles to lift it and the back muscles to hold the spine in place so that gravity is pushing through the spine and not in other places. The back muscles along the spine are as important as the abdominal muscles in keeping your posture strong.

Are you frequently tired or achy, or bothered by nagging neck and back pain? A simple answer could be your posture. Approximately 60% of the population slouches, and most of that happens in the older population. Slouching is a problem that can cause pain and even reduce your energy level. Fatigue, faulty alignment, and bad postural habits can make picking up a piece of paper as risky to your back as tackling a 200 pound load.

Poor posture can make you appear older and heavier, while a well-aligned body projects an energetic, self-confident image. Poor posture can lead to muscle fatigue. The extra stress poor posture puts on your muscles can leave you physically drained, which can make you feel tired.

Poor posture can even affect your breathing. Some experts have observed that slumping forward may leave less room for your lungs to fill with oxygen. When your lungs don’t expand and contract properly, you may not get enough oxygen to all of the tissues throughout your body.  And that can sap your energy.

If you have been experiencing low back pain or neck and shoulder pain, it may be time to seek medical advice. Catching early signs and symptoms now and working with a health care professional can definitely improve quality of life and decrease the level of disability you might experience in the future.

To learn about the helpful physical therapy services provided by Masonicare’s Outpatient Rehabilition Department or to make an appointment, call 203-679-6909.