5 tips to prevent lower back pain

If you’ve ever had a bout of back pain you are probably not alone.  The National Institute of Health reports 8 out of 10 people will experience serious back pain sometime in their lives.  Most of the time the back pain is set off by something totally minor such as making your bed, opening a drawer or exiting your car.

Sitting with poor posture over your smartphone or laptop can strain your spine and the surrounding muscles over time, causing pain and making you more vulnerable to serious problems.  To stop back pain and avoid future agony, try addressing these unexpected guilty parties.

Your fancy office chair

Even an expensive ergonomic office chair can be bad for your back if you are not sitting in it properly. When you slouch at your desk your fancy office chair isn’t helping your back.  Many of you have laptop computers as your main workstation.  Take a break from that posture once an hour.  Stretch you neck and upper back.  Type without looking at the keyboard. Sit with both feet flat on the floor.  Sitting for long periods of time is hard on your back and spine.  Sitting not only lessens blood flow to the discs that cushion your spine, wearing them out, it can put 30% more pressure on your spine than standing or walking.  Be sure to stretch at your desk and get up every hour and walk around.  Change the muscles you are demanding to work.  Sitting at a desk can turn into an isometric exercise which is bad for muscles.  ( I will write on the health benefits of full-range-of-motion isotonic exercise over isometric exercise in the future.)

The wrong shoes

Maybe I should be more complete; wearing the wrong shoes too often.  If you wear high heels everyday or frequently you are asking for trouble. High heels cause your foot to strike the ground in a toe-forward motion rather than the heel-toe gait which is normal and healthy.  Try to keep your heel height to 3 inches or less.

You should also wear shoes with a back or support around the heel of the foot.  Your shoe should hold your foot firmly in place.  Backless shoes or flip flops allow for instability.  Again, wearing flip flops occasionally is ok, wearing them frequently leads to more stress on your back.

Your well used smartphone or tablet

Mobile technology has not been a friend to our necks and backs.  Looking down over our phones or tablets strains the muscles of our necks and the pain can be felt all the way down to our low backs.  Take frequent breaks and try to look straight ahead at your device.  You can buy a stand for your tablet that will raise it more like a laptop.  The stand I use doesn’t add anymore bulk to the tablet, costs $40, and is well worth it.

Extra pounds

Carrying even just a few extra pound around your midsection, whether it’s due to belly fat or being pregnant, makes your pelvis tilt forward and is a stress to your low back.  May I recommend a easy exercise to quietly perform several times a day:  Tighten your abs like your are going to take a punch in the stomach.  This activates core muscles and takes a little stress and strain off your low back.   Hold this squeeze for 10 seconds then release.  If you are pregnant check with your doctor before doing any exercise.

Time stress

Just like the rest of you, your back muscles can tense up when you are frazzled.  Your muscles are designed to contract and relax but when you are stressed, they may contract so much they eventually start to spasm.  Stress also boosts the production of the hormone cortisol, which increases inflammation and can lead to achiness. Relax the demands on your time.  Decrease the things you think you “have to do”.  Fill that time with things that genuinely relax you.  Have a massage.  Take a nap.  Go for a walk outside, barefooted in the grass.