Health Tips – Back Safety
It doesn’t take much. Maybe you lugged the trash bag to the curb or loaded heavy groceries into the car. Back pain – the most common medical disorder in our modern society – is often triggered by simple, daily activities like these. Statistics indicate that two-thirds of all Canadians will experience at least one episode of back pain in their lifetime.
How your back works
You may not realize it but you use your back constantly – to bend, twist, stand, even to lie down. This steady pattern of wear and tear makes the back extremely vulnerable to stress, strain and fatigue. All the more reason to keep your back healthy – after all, you’ve only got one!
Your back is an ingenious structure, brilliantly engineered to support your upper body and give it flexibility. Your spinal column is made up of 24 moveable bones, called vertebra, which are separated by tough cushions of cartilage, called discs. The entire structure is supported by muscles and ligaments that help keep your back straight and strong.
The usual suspects
Current research indicates that 80% of all back pain is the direct result of poor physical fitness and lack of exercise. Most back pain is caused by overusing or overstretching the muscles and ligaments that support the spine. Sudden, unexpected movements can also cause pain by straining your back joints or injuring a disc.
Keeping your back and abdominal muscles strong and flexible is one of the best ways to protect your back from injury. A regular routine of stretching and strengthening exercises Exercise Your Back will improve your back strength and flexibility. Excess weight, especially in the abdominal area, puts steady pressure on the muscles of the back and is a common cause of back pain. Visit Eating Right section and learn more about a healthy diet and good nutrition. A few dietary changes may save you years of aches and pains!
Lifting is one of the most common causes of back injury. Whether you’re lifting your baby out of a crib, putting groceries into the trunk or moving a stack of art supplies, remember these important points:
Before you lift
- Identify the weight of the load – can you do it alone?
- If the load is manageable, make sure you can lift the load without straining yourself
- Make sure the load is free to move
- Check that the pathway to the spot where you will put the load is clear. You could easily slip and fall on grease, oil, water or clutter
- Check that there is nothing blocking the spot where you intend to put the load
As you lift
- Stand close to the load, facing the direction you plan to move
- Keep your feet well apart and flat on the floor for good balance
- Make sure you have a good grip on the load. Get as close to the load as possible and try not to reach for it
- Keep your arms straight
- Tighten your stomach muscles and tuck your chin into your chest. By tightening and tucking your pelvis, you’ll help keep your back in alignment while you lift
- Lift by bending at the knees, not at the waist. Keep holding your back in alignment – let the strong muscles in your thighs do the actual “lifting”
- As you lift, hold the load close to your body
- Lift smoothly, without jerking
- Never twist while lifting. Instead, move one foot at a time in the direction you want to go, then turn with your leg muscles
Follow these same, safe techniques as you put your load down. It doesn’t take any more time to lift safely than to lift unsafely, so why not play it safe and lift right?