Douglas deHoll, MD
Palmetto Health-USC Spine Center
If you find yourself struggling to go about your daily life due to persistent back pain, you are not alone. Up to 80% of the population experiences back pain at some point, from adolescents to the elderly. In fact, back pain accounts for more than 264 million lost workdays in just one year. The good news is that acute low back pain usually resolves on its own in six weeks. But Douglas deHoll, MD, Palmetto Health-USC Spine Center, said there are five steps you can take to prevent this common nuisance.
- If you smoke, stop. Smoking is associated with an increased presence of chronic back pain. Research concludes that smoking correlates with higher rates of osteoporosis, lumbar disc diseases, and slower healing times. Those who smoke and also sustain a back injury tend to have a higher chance of developing chronic pain down the road.
- Get more exercise. While rest seems like the best method for getting rid of back pain right off the bat, a day or two of rest is probably all you need. Research shows that regular physical activity, including walking, biking, going to the gym, swimming, dancing, etc., not only helps you stay within your ideal weight but also soothes inflammation and muscle tension. It is recommended to stay lightly active, even if you are in pain.
- Use proper lifting technique. Whether you work in a job that requires you to lift heavy objects often or you are simply working around the home, be careful how you lift. Always bend your knees and squat to lower your body toward the object, engaging your stomach muscles and pulling the object closer as you stand up. Never bend from the waist to lift. Also avoid twisting your body while lifting. If you are able, pushing heavy objects is easier on the back than pulling them.
- Empty your pockets. If you keep a well-stuffed wallet and you need to sit for a long period of time (on the road or at work), remove your wallet from your back pocket.
- Maintain proper posture. While sitting at a computer for seven or eight hours a day, people tend to slouch and don’t realize the damage they are doing to their backs and the prolonged pain they could cause. Research studies have shown that the slouched position actually increases pressure on your disks. Choose a chair that supports your back properly. Break up your time at the computer, whether you are at work or home, with stretching exercises. Practicing better posture will help align the natural curves of your back and maintain its strength.
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