Avoiding Back Pain Before it Starts

October 22, 2011

One of the main keys to living a back pain free life is to take the necessary precaution to avoid it in the first place. This of course seems to be a quite simple concept but in today’s reality there are many activities, from work to pleasure, that will put your back at risk. Although it is not completely possible to avoid all activities that may cause back pain, arming yourself with the correct knowledge will increase your chances of living a longer life without it.

Back pain at work can be caused by many situations that you come across on a daily basis.

Musculoskeletal disorders, termed MSD, are injuries or disorders that occur in the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs. A work related MSD or WMSD as it is also referred to, is a condition which the work environment and performance of work contribute significantly to the MSD. The condition is made worse or is persistent due to work conditions.

From the CDC in regards to WMSD:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a review of evidence for work-related MSDs. Examples of work conditions that may lead to WMSD include routine lifting of heavy objects, daily exposure to whole body vibration, routine overhead work, work with the neck in chronic flexion position, or performing repetitive forceful tasks. This report identified positive evidence for relationships between work conditions and MSDs of the neck, shoulder, elbow, hand and wrist, and back.

It is important that your workplace has a safety team that will implement ergonomic changes to it. Following simple precautions will help to manage the risks associated with WMSD.

Below are 11 tips to a healthy back taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III.

  1. Exercise and postureCombining regular exercise with proper posture helps to minimize chronic back pain conditions.
  2. Environment and back injury
    Simply put, you can avoid many accidents waiting to happen by keeping your home and workplace environment as safe as possible. If you notice something lying around that may be tripped over, slipped on, fallen off of easily, take care of it as soon as you can to minimize risks associated with it.
  3. For people already suffering from back pain or a spinal disorder
    It is important that you still exercise to keep yourself in shape and help build a stronger core. It’s very important that you consult with a physician or a physiotherapist before you do this. Either of the professionals will be able to provide you with the proper structure and guidance to avoid further injury.
  4. Increase your muscular strength and flexibility
    The core muscles of your body work together and provide your spine with its much needed strength and support. Pelvic alignment is important as well; strength and flexibility in your hips and thighs will improve this.
  5. Swimming, walking, and cycling
    Performing these exercises allow your muscles to function better
  6. Avoid idle standing
    You should try to avoid standing or bending down in the same position for extended periods of time
  7. Ergonomically correct chairs
    A proper chair needs good back support, and should be at the correct height for the individual. Straining to get on or off of the chair can cause discomfort and injury, especially if you need to twist the spine into an awkward position.
  8. Sleep on the right mattress
    Although not many people put much thought into it, on average you will spend a third of your life in bed. It is suggested that you sleep on a medium firm mattress rather than a firm one, and use pillows to help support you neck. Your pillows should not be plushy to the extent that they push your head or neck into unnatural positions.
  9. Lifting and load carrying
    Improper lifting and load carrying techniques are one of the main avoidable causes of back pain.
    Important rules to follow 
    • Don’t carry a load that is too heavy; workplaces are legally required to provide you with the proper equipment to avoid injury. Speak to your boss or supervisor if you feel you are at risk.
    • When lifting make sure to keep your back straight and bend at your knees.
    • If you need help, ask for it.
  10. Keep your weight under control
    Carrying those extra pounds of body fat will take its toll on you. It puts a tremendous amount of strain on your back muscles. An added benefit to losing weight is the increased amount of energy you will have.
  11. Don’t smoke
    Not only are cigarettes bad for your health, they cause diminished levels of oxygen in the spinal tissues that slow down the rate of healing if you do injure your back.

Although back pain or injury is not always avoidable, the above steps will help to ensure your back and spine stay healthy for as long as they can.