by Bradley Tedder PTA, ATC | North Central Phoenix Location
Most of us have said, “I tweaked my back, or my back hurts,” and experienced low back pain at one time or another in our lives.
The Bureau of Labor reports that 20% of all illnesses and injuries that occur in the workplace are related to the back. That’s over 1 million people a year. Pain can be debilitating and long-lasting, affecting your daily life and those around you. The three most common injuries to the spine are strains or injuries to the muscles and tendons, sprains, which are injuries to the back’s ligaments, and herniation involving injury to the disc between the vertebra.
How do you prevent back pain or a back injury?
Prevention of a back injury is simple. It involves remembering how to properly lift in our everyday tasks.
Use proper mechanics when lifting
What is that, you might say? Always use proper body mechanics when lifting anything, no matter how big or small, or heavy or light it may be. Start by standing with a wide base that is hip to shoulder-width apart. Then, bending at your knees (not at your waist) and keeping the object you are lifting as close to you as possible is important. Next is to keep your abdomen tight. This is not holding your breath. We don’t want you to pass out now! Tightening your abdominals is pulling your belly button into your spine like trying to tighten your pants after Thanksgiving dinner. Next is the lifting phase of the movement, which involves using your legs, not your back muscles. And finally, maintaining an upright position and not letting your back move into an unnatural position. I’ve included a diagram to give you an idea- the left is improper mechanics, while the right is proper mechanics.
Be active every day
The more active you are daily, the better your physical fitness. The less likely you are to suffer an injury such as a back injury. Being active helps to increase one’s strength and flexibility. The Mayo Clinic recommends 75-150 minutes of cardiovascular activities weekly. This can be as simple as walking, taking an aerobics class, or going for a run. The Mayo Clinic also recommends resistance training twice weekly, including bodyweight exercises, weights, or resistance bands/tubes.
Don’t sit for long periods at a time
While sitting generally is not bad, sitting for long periods places increased pressure and strain on the low back. It is recommended that you should get up once every 60 minutes and walk around/stretch. This position change allows muscles to change positions and not become stiff sitting in one position for too long.
Unfortunately, you have tried to prevent a back injury and still have ended up with one, what do you do?
First, do not lie down and do nothing at all to treat it. While it may feel good to the back, I cannot stress this enough; in the long run, it will cause you more pain and disability. Secondly, use ice or heat, this is a great way to help reduce pain and improve your symptoms. Finally, if your symptoms do not improve after a few days or you are feeling worse, come see your physical therapist at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy.
Arizona is a direct access state, this means that you can go see a physical therapist without a physician’s referral (insurances may vary). We offer free Injury Assessments and will be able to help you begin your road to recovery. Schedule your appointment today.