Let’s face it—back injuries are very common these days. We are all familiar with situations that lead to back injuries—jobs with long hours of sitting or standing, little or no exercise, improper nutrition, and lifestyle problems. If you can trace your back pain to any one of these, take the right steps now.
Understand Body Mechanics
Repetitive stress on your back can lead to injuries. Studies suggest that a person incurs back pain mainly because of poor body mechanics, which includes everything from how we move to how we sit and position our body while doing day-to-day activities. The human vertebral column has a smooth S-curve. What body mechanics teaches us is to sustain this natural and neutral position, thus relieving the tension from our back muscles.
Try it now. Stand up and imagine your body as a straight line—from the midline of the ears to the shoulders, via the midline of the hips and knees, and finally to the midline of the ankles. If you assume this posture, you will realize it will instantly make you stand tall, pull in your stomach, and tighten the buttocks. If you are capable of maintaining this throughout the day, you will be relieving your spine of a lot of pressure, thereby doing a world of good to it.1
Here are some more easy-to-follow body mechanics tips to protect your back from injuries:
- Get an adjustable work surface and a chair with maximum adjustability. Take micro breaks and move around frequently.
- If your daily routine requires you to stand for longer periods, distribute your weight evenly on both legs. You can also try alternating your weight from one foot to the other or rest one foot at a time on a footrest. In case you are at a job with long hours of sitting, make sure you adjust your work surface to a comfortable height and distance, so you don’t bend over.
- If you want to move an object around, push it around instead of lifting or pulling it. While pushing, you will be using more of your legs and not your back. This reduces the stress on your back.
- It’s not easy to maintain good posture while sleeping, but you can certainly lessen the damage by taking a few precautions. Sleep on a firm mattress. Lie on your back. Avoid sleeping on your stomach as it is taxing for your back and neck. An easy way to get proper posture when sleeping is to place a pillow under your knees. If you usually sleep on your side, keep your knees bent and place a pillow between them.
Combat Occupational Back Injuries
What do you do when your job is the primary reason for your back pain? In fact, some of the common occupational back injuries are due to manual material handling (MMH), such as lifting, lowering, carrying, and pushing equipment, tools, materials, and supplies. To prevent these occupational injuries, it is important to identify the cause.
How To Prevent Back Injury From MMH
An ideal situation where the risks of MMH-induced back injuries can be drastically reduced would be decreasing, if not eliminating, heavy MMH, possibly by automating the processes. If this is not possible, the other option is prevention and management.
- Redesign the workflow
This would involve designing or redesigning the existing workflow such that the pace of the work and the scheduling of rest breaks can be optimized to reduce stress on the worker’s body.2
- Provide instructions on body mechanics
A study on two groups of workers showed that the group that received body mechanics instructions on spinal alignment in their work environment performed better than the other group. The study also suggested that job-specific body mechanics instructions could be the first step toward promoting behavioral change in workers, which would eventually prevent occupation-related low back pain.3
- Improve the ergonomics
This would deal with improving the efficiency of workers by providing better work environment. There are mainly two types of ergonomic improvements that are required according to the particular tasks at hand.
- Engineering improvement entails material modifications in terms of rearranging, redesigning, modifying, or replacing tools, equipment, workstations, packaging, parts, processes, products, or materials used at work.
- Administrative improvement entails improving the work practices or the organization of work to minimize the risk of back injuries among workers. Job rotation and rest breaks are some of the ways to go about it.
Do Exercise And Yoga
Exercise is both a remedy and a preventive measure for any health problem. In the case of back pain too, moderate exercise is considered therapeutic. For people with back injuries, proper exercise prescribed by trained professionals would not only hasten the healing process but also decrease the risk of future back injuries. Studies suggest that there is considerable improvement in global pain ratings after introducing exercise programs at work places.4
A study on the effect of yoga at the work place showed that it improved psychological well-being.5
Since yoga mainly focuses on stretching, it could give the maximum relief to your back pain. By stretching the abdominal muscles, it relaxes the stiff or tight muscles that cause the pain. Some of the yoga postures to relieve your lower back pain are supine hamstring stretch, two-knee twist, sphinx, pigeon, thread the needle, and legs up the wall.
Small Steps Matter
If you can’t run five miles at a stretch, commit yourself to walking short distances every day. Make exercise a part of your routine to strengthen the abdominal muscles, lose weight, and increase flexibility.
Get The Right Nutrition
The need to eat a healthy, balanced diet to keep your spine strong cannot be emphasized enough. There are a number of different foods rich in the essential vitamins and minerals that are necessary to keep your spinal cord healthy. Look for the foods that are rich in vitamin A, B6, B12, C, D, E, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Vitamin D helps in regulating the level of calcium in the blood. Calcium is necessary for healthy, strong bones. Some of the other nutrients best known for their anti-inflammatory properties are a combination of vitamins B1, B6, and B12. Together they decrease the need for pain-reducing medications. Vitamin B12, in particular, is known to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects.
Keep your spine healthy by including organic vegetables, dairy products, and omega 3-rich oily fish. Vegetarians have the option of including flax seeds and sea algae in their diet to meet the omega 3 requirement.6
Improve Your Lifestyle
A national survey examined the association between the prevalence of lower back pain and lifestyle factors like smoking and obesity. Smokers under the age of 45 were found to be at an increased risk of back pain. A similar correlation was found for obesity. As more body mass means more strain on the lower back, it stands to reason that obesity leads to back pain.7
Given that back pain is a debilitating experience that can restrict you from the simple joys of living, why wait for a cure when you have the time and the option to prevent it? Here is to keeping your spine strong!
|↑1||Back Injury Prevention.Texas Department of Insurance Division of Workers’ Compensation Workplace Safety.|
|↑2||Back Injury Prevention. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.|
|↑3||McCauley, Maureen. “The effect of body mechanics instruction on work performance among young workers.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy 44, no. 5 (1990): 402-407.|
|↑4||Rainville, James, Carol Hartigan, Eugenio Martinez, Janet Limke, Cristin Jouve, and Mark Finno. “Exercise as a treatment for chronic low back pain.” The Spine Journal 4, no. 1 (2004): 106-115.|
|↑5||Hartfiel, Ned, Chris Burton, JoRycroft-Malone, Graham Clarke, J. Havenhand, Sat-Bir Khalsa, and R.T. Edwards. “Yoga for reducing perceived stress and back pain at work.” Occupational medicine 62, no. 8 (2012): 606-612.|
|↑6||Low Back Pain: Complementary Approaches. Integrative Pain Medicine.|
|↑7||DEYO, RICHARD A., and J. Edward Bass. “Lifestyle and low-back pain: the influence of smoking and obesity.” Spine 14, no. 5 (1989): 501-506.|