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10 Tips for a Healthy Back

10 Tips for a Healthy Back

The spine is the pillar of the body, providing the foundation for the upper and lower extremities to attach.  Our spines withstand significant forces all day long, and over time back pain can become a significant obstacle to everyday living.  However, there are many ways we can take good care of our backs.  Here are a couple tips to help you keep your back healthy and strong.

1. Watch your posture while sitting.  

  • Sit in chairs with back supports.
  • Use a lumbar roll to maintain the normal curve of your low back.
  • Ensure the height of your chair is such that your feet rest flat on the floor with your knees and hips level.
  • The average American sits 9 hours a day.  Do not sit longer than 1 hour without getting up to stretch or move.

2. Stand smart.  

  • Maintain the normal curves of your spine in standing.
  • When standing tall, you should be able to draw a line down through your ear, shoulder, hip, and ankle.
  • Wear good shoes and consider using a standing desk mat if you stand a lot during work.
  • Take breaks from standing.

3. Lift correctly.  

  • Lift objects by using the strong muscles in your legs.
  •  Get close to the object, bend your knees and your hips, and maintain the normal curve of your low back. Do not twist when lifting or carrying items.
  • Think about the tasks you perform daily at work or home, and minimize lifting and carrying objects.
  •  Use rolling carts or other strategies to reduce back strain.

4. Exercise regularly. 

  • Individuals who exercise regularly will generally experience better health, reduced back pain, and less stress.
  • A good exercise program has a stretching component, a strengthening component, and an aerobic component.
  • Maintain the mobility of your spine by stretching daily.
  • Strengthen your core and extremities several times a week.
  • Get regular cardiovascular exercise, 3-5 days/week.  Choose activities you like such as walking, swimming, dancing, or riding a bike.

5. Quit Smoking.

  • Smoking increases the likelihood of back pain.
  • It is thought that smoking reduces the blood supply to the discs between the vertebrae and this may lead to degeneration of these discs.
  • Talk to your Physician about quitting.
  • There are many smoking cessation options that may work for you.

6. Keep moving even when you have pain.

  • The majority of back pain is mechanical in nature, and will likely reduce with gentle movements, stretching, and walking.
  • As tempting as it may be to stay in bed when you are hurting, remember that you will likely feel better by getting up and gently moving and walking.

7. Maintain a healthy diet.

  • Try to maintain a healthy diet and weight. Extra weight can impact stress on your back.

8. Stay hydrated.

  • The average adult is approximately 60 % water.
  • Staying hydrated is beneficial for all aspects of health.
  • In general, an adult should drink half of their body weight in ounces.  For example, if you weight 180 lbs, you should drink 90 ounces of water daily.

9. Get regular sleep.

  • Ensure that you get a good night’s rest on a regular basis.
  • The discs in your spine hydrate when you lie down to sleep.
  • Your spine needs the rest too.

10. See Your Physician.

  • Make an appointment to see your Physician for back pain that is progressively worsening, and for back pain that is no better or worse with changing positions and activities.

 

Resources:

  1. Ochsner Healthy Back, Ochsner Baptist Campus, 894-2002
  2. Ochsner Smoking Cessation program, 842-7490
  3. McKenzie -“Treat your own back.”   www.optp.com
  4. McKenzie Lumbar Rolls   www.optp.com

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