Let’s face it: we're all guilty of unhealthy habits. However, the ones that affect our back are perhaps the most criminal of all. Your back is your support system, so are you doing all you can to support it? Don’t wait for back pain to motivate you, prevent injury, #KeepMoving, and maintain a healthy back with these five tips.
Maintaining a Healthy Back
Avoiding Sustained or Repetitive Postures. If your job requires you to sit for long periods of time, try to take micro-breaks (5 min/hour). Use this time to stand up and do a little stretch or walk to a co-worker’s desk to talk instead of sending them an e-mail.
Get Active with Yoga or Pilates. This can be a great way to strengthen your core and back musculature, decreasing the risk of injury. If you have an injury check in with your physiotherapist to ensure this is a safe option for you.
Do the Right Core Exercises. People often do core exercises that are too challenging for them. This results in poor form and a lot of compensation. It is more important to be able to maintain good form throughout 5 reps of the exercise than be able to complete 30 repetitions with poor form. Planks, bird dogs, and dead bugs are great exercises that have varying levels of difficulty based on your strength.
Lift with a Neutral Spine. Lifting is a very common cause of back injuries, regardless of the weight being lifted you want to focus on good posture. Start by standing close to the object, bending down with your knees and hinging forward at the hips - all while maintaining a neutral spine. When you lift the object, you want it to be as close to your chest as possible. Also try to avoid the combined movement of lifting and twisting: this is a very common mechanism for disc injuries.
Nerve Flossing. Sciatica is a common symptom that presents as pain into the buttock and down the back of the leg. This commonly happens when the sciatic nerve is compressed or trapped somewhere in the spinal column, or within soft tissue. Nerve flossing can be a useful technique to help restore the mobility of the nerve and resolve the pain. Check with your physiotherapist to see if this is an appropriate treatment for you - in the acute phase nerve flossing can also increase the pain if done too aggressively.
One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about their back is that it is delicate. Your back is strong! It is built to take on load and provide stability to the rest of your body. The best way to prevent a back injury is to have a strong back. A good strength training program focused on gradual loading of the spine is recommended to maintain back health. Ensure that the program is safe to do by consulting your health care practitioner.
Jayme Gordon graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Master's degree in Physical Therapy. Prior to this she completed a Bachelor's of Science Kinesiology degree at the University of Victoria. She is a member of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association as well as the Physiotherapy Association of BC. Jayme has a passion for working with a diverse patient population ranging from athletes to community dwelling seniors. Book with Jayme today.