Protect Your Back

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Back pain can be easily caused by sprains, poor posture, and improper lifting of objects from the ground.

A common ailment of many, lower back pain usually starts with some stiffness and soreness and would usually last for a couple of days but could also stretch till many months. It can range from a dull ache to more acute pain depending on how the pain is being afflicted. The usual causes of back ache are many, with most occurrences ranging from a bad fall, improper lifting of heavy objects, having poor posture over a long period of time to being obese; these factors can cause strains on your back resulting in back ache or pain.

To counter back pain caused by sprains and strains, time is of the best essence. Of course, using an ice pack also helps, as with oral painkillers and anti-inflammatory topical medications. Depending on the condition, the doctor might also propose physical therapy such as physiotherapy and chiropractic sessions. For chronic back pain sufferers – pain lasting for a duration of 3 months or more – it’s best that medical attention be sought to ensure there is no underlying cause for your back condition. In serious cases, surgery might even be proposed.

We may run the risk of taking our back, just with the rest of the body, for granted in the daily course of our activities. This is why most people face the problem of back pain at some point in their lives. Sometimes it just needs a little conscious effort on our part to reduce the occurrence of back pain happening.

Strengthen your back with exercise
Some exercises like Pilates strengthen your core and back muscles, which help to support your spine better. Regular exercise also keeps your back muscles strong and enables your body to be agile and more flexible in handling daily activities. Swimming is an all-rounder, working many or all parts of your back while walking is a low-impact exercise that would not aggravate the back structures too much. Regardless of their benefits, care must be taken not to over-strain the back during exercise.

Keep that posture straight
Having good posture when standing and sitting will help to eliminate lower back problems. When we sit for long periods of time, we may tend to not pay attention to our posture and slouch. The slouching would put undue pressure on our spine. When sitting, make sure that your knees are the same level as your hips with both feet lying flat on the floor. Choose chairs that are ergonomically friendly or provide good support for your back.

Shed those pounds
Overweight people pack on the pounds and add stress on their backs. Maintain a healthy weight or go for weight loss to minimise the pressure on the spine. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week for maintaining your weight or 250 minutes a week if you’re pushing for weight loss. Aerobic exercises like jogging and swimming are good for cardiovascular health while strength training like weight lifting helps to build muscular strength.

The bedding matters
The problem with most beds is that they don’t offer enough support. And when you spend almost 8 hours each night on something with bad support, it could be more damaging to your back than you thought. There’s no need to get a rock solid mattress, something that is medium firm would do. Also use pillows to support your neck and body when you sleep. And when it’s time to replace your mattress, change it. Over time, it would be subjected to wear and tear, losing its firmness. Also, twice a year, try to flip the mattress and sleep on the reverse side to prevent the mattress from sagging and to maintain in good condition.

Stretch those limbs
Do you find your muscles the tightest in the morning? Similarly your spine would be tight too because of the lack of blood flow in these areas when we wake up in the morning. Stretching your back before getting out of bed helps to move the blood flow back to the spine, reducing the incidence of sprains. Slowly stretch your arms over your head in your bed before lifting yourself out of bed. Or do some mild stretching standing up beside the bed before washing up.

Choose shoes with good support
For women who adore high-heels, try to alternate high-heeled shoes with a variation of low-heeled ones and flats. Shoes that provide some degree of rubber or soft material underneath are the best because they help to absorb the shock and impact during walking. This will help minimise the pressure on your back. The best is of course running shoes but no one wears them except for sports so that leaves buying shoes that offer good arch support.

Move around when sitting
Often times we get so absorbed in our work that we put off going to the toilet, and working on other office tasks like faxing or copying. Because sitting puts pressure on our spine, it’s always good to walk around frequently. Thus, whenever you’re in the office, make an effort to check out the pigeonhole whether you’ve faxes or pop by your colleague’s cubicle for a quick update rather than emailing him or her. And when you’re required to sit for long periods of time, try to limit major and sudden movements like turning your neck or shoulders for you might cause more harm to your back. Instead gradually move from side to side if you need to.

Heavy lifting can do harm
If you’ve male colleagues, you need not bother with this one. (Kidding) But seriously, when you need to lift moderately heavy parcels, bend your knees and try to keep your back straight. Hold the parcel close to body and lift it slowly. Of course if it’s too heavy to manage safely, don’t be gung-ho and leave it for someone else to do it.  

Reduce stress
Stress can cause your muscles to tighten. Do you feel your neck and shoulders tense up while  rushing to finish your report by the end of the day? Stress can restrict the proper blood flow to these areas, thereby affecting the spine area. Try to cope with stressful situations positively whenever you encounter them to minimise the tension to your back.

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