Your lower back is a complex system of bones, nerves, muscles and more that combine to provide your body with strength and flexibility. This complexity also makes it susceptible to problems that can cause pain not only in your back but also other areas like your legs and hips. Avoiding lower back strain is an important goal so that you can continue to participate in the activities you enjoy without discomfort. Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Orthopedic Center in New York City recommends abiding by the following guidelines to prevent lower back strain.
Exercising helps keep your back strong and healthy, especially if you make sure to strengthen your core muscles. Low impact cardiovascular exercise is good for your spine and lower back. If you are already experiencing back pain, don’t succumb to the idea that complete rest is always the best approach. Experts agree that regular exercise decreases inflammation and muscle tension, although it’s advisable to check with Dr. Fischer to make sure your chosen activities are safe for your condition. Even if must start with only small amounts of exercise, it’s better for your lower back than being sedentary.
Poor posture places unneeded pressure on your back. Remind yourself often to pay attention to your posture, making sure you’re sitting or standing correctly. Use an ergonomic chair with a straight back or lower back support, and use a stool to keep your knees higher than your hips while sitting. Walk around at least once every hour if you spend a lot of time sitting, and consider resting alternating feet on a stool if you spend prolonged periods standing.
Safely lifting objects is an important way to protect your lower back. Don’t bend from your waist to lift heavy objects, but bend at your knees and squat. Pull in your stomach muscles and hold the object close to your body as you stand. Avoid twisting movements when lifting objects. If you need to move an object on the floor, push it instead of pulling it because pushing is an easier movement on your back.
Since your lower back is involved in nearly everything you do, keeping it limber and strong is important protection against injury. Gentle stretching not only feels good, it helps prevent back strain. Try holding each stretch for 30 seconds or more, as the benefits increase the longer you hold the stretches. Don’t forget to also stretch your hamstring muscles, since it has been proven that tight hamstrings are related to lower back pain. Hamstring stretches can decrease pressure on your pelvis and aid your lower back.
You might be surprised that too little sleep can cause back pain or worsen existing back issues. Ask Dr. Fischer about the best sleeping positions, such as sleeping on your side with your knees pulled up or sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees. Most people should avoid sleeping on their stomachs because it can be hard on the back.
Extra pounds on your frame, especially your midsection, can strain your lower back and shift your center of gravity so that you don’t practice proper posture. Make it a goal to stay within 10 pounds of your ideal weight to promote back health.
Anything you can do to improve your overall fitness will also benefit your lower back. This includes drinking lots of water, limiting alcohol intake, stopping smoking, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and managing your stress.
Dr. Charla Fischer is a New York City spine surgeon, schedule a consultation today if you are suffering with back pain.