February 20, 2012
Back Pain Monday
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), lower back pain is the leading cause for job-related disability and the second most common neurological pain after headaches. In fact, it is estimated that nearly $50 billion is spent each year by Americans to treat lower back pain.
Lower back pain is most often the result of injury or trauma, caused by overly strained ligaments or muscles, improper lifting technique, a fall, or a sudden jolt or movement. Generally, these conditions describe acute lower back pain, which lasts less than six weeks. Chronic lower back pain, which lasts for more than three months, may be attributed to other degenerative health problems, including arthritis, osteoporosis, joint or disk irritation, skeletal abnormalities, or spinal cancer.
Obesity, age, poor posture, physical inactivity, smoking, stress, poor sleeping position, depression, physically strenuous work, and sedentary jobs all increase the risk for lower back pain. That being said, one can prevent and/or reduce lower back pain by following some of the important tips below.
- Avoid excess weight, especially around the waist, which puts a strain on your lower back.
- Perform back strengthening and stretching exercises 2-3 times a week. Also, remember to stretch before exercise or any strenuous physical activity.
- Practice yoga, which stretches and strengthens muscles in addition to improving posture.
- Sit up straight with your knees slightly above your hips.
- Stand tall without slouching, keeping your head and shoulders back.
- Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees to reduce pressure on the back.
- Quit smoking, as nicotine leads to degeneration of the spinal discs, which cushion the vertebrae.
- Abstain from heavy lifting. If you do lift something heavy, keep your back straight and bend at the knees, lifting with your legs and not your back. Also be sure to keep the object close to your body.
- Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet with adequate consumption of all vitamins and minerals.
Johns Hopkins Healthy Monday Project, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, offers tips for preventing disease and injury, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Check back each week for new tips or visit our archive.
Barbara A. Curbow, PhD, professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Environmental Health Sciences, also says “People should get up and walk around if they have been sitting for prolonged periods of time. They should be particularly vigilant during times of high work or school stress because we tend to tense up lower back muscles more and we tend to lose track of time and may sit in a single position for far longer than we should.”
Moreover, Curbow adds “Those of us who supervise others should be mindful of doing what we can to reduce stress in the workplace and to make sure that those we supervise know that we encourage them to practice healthy back behaviors, such as taking breaks to stretch or walk around.”
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