Taking Care of Your Back

Low back pain is the second most common reason for visits to primary care physicians and the most common reason for visits to orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons.  It is estimated that 80% of the population will suffer from an episode of disabling acute low back pain at some point during their lifetime.  Although there are many different treatment options for those who suffer from low back pain, self care is the most important action that a person can take to maintain a healthy back, to prevent low back pain, and to facilitate the healing process if low back pain occurs.

Bad habits such as the way you stand (posture) or the way you position yourself (body mechanics) can contribute to the onset of low back pain.  Poor posture and body mechanics change the optimal alignment of the spine over time leading to a process of degeneration.  Often, the process can and will result in weakened discs, inflamed joints, irritated nerves, and painfully tight overworked muscles.  Maintaining proper posture during lying, sitting and standing positions has a significant affect on reducing the stress and strain on the spine which are associated with pain and injury.  Learning how to move properly during common daily activities such as bending, lifting, turning, and reaching is also critical in preventing low back pain.  Many of you may have experienced the ill effects of poor body mechanics during activities such as moving furniture, lifting children, or snow shoveling.

A healthy back needs to be strong and flexible.  Daily exercises aimed at stretching and strengthening muscles and maintaining the flexibility of your spine will help to accomplish this.  One highly recommended exercise for your back is regular walking.  Core strengthening exercises are also very important for improving optimal spine stability, an integral part of maintaining a healthy back.

There are many other useful self care tips and techniques that can be learned to keep your back healthy.  Here are a few: maintain an optimal body weight, wear the right shoes, shift positions often at home and work, choose the right bed, use lumbar support for sitting, perform self-massage, or better yet, have someone else give you a massage.

A physical therapist can help develop an exercise program that is right for you while teaching you the skills you need to move safely and keep your back healthy.  If you are interested in taking care of your back to prevent the onset of low back pain or to address a current back pain problem you should consider seeing a trained physical therapist.