Ever had that sudden twinge of back pain – so small, yet so utterly debilitating? How about a slow burn in your low back? You chalk it up to “just being sore,” but wonder: is it normal for the soreness to last weeks – or months?
Your spine and the surrounding bone and soft tissues form a complex system protecting some of your most vital nervous and circulatory functions. Any number of factors (lifestyle, weight, age, injury, and more) can impact this system.
When this protective system breaks down, it can lead to pain. Luckily, there are measures you can take now to avoid issues later. Atlanta Spine Clinic says protecting your back can be as easy as one, two, three!
#1: Mind Your Mother, and Sit (or Stand) Up Straight
She told you and told you that slouching was bad for you. Well, mom was right! Poor posture can turn into back pain before you know it, especially if you’re required to sit or stand for long periods.
So, the first way to protect your back? Mind your mother, and sit (or stand) up straight! What can you do specifically?
Don’t Slump in Your Seat
Don’t lean over that keyboard. Sit back from this screen and straighten up nice and tall. Make the text bigger if you need to. Position your chair so your knees are aligned with your hips. Oh, and your desktop shouldn’t be higher than a couple of inches above your waist.
For those having difficulty maintaining this posture for long, roll up a towel (or drop a lumbar pillow into your Amazon cart) and wedge it between the chair and where your back seems to arch. Now, roll your shoulders back and relax. And keep those feet flat on the floor for better circulation.
No Slouching While Standing, Either
The same as sitting, when you’re standing, don’t slump. Roll those shoulders back and lift your chin an inch or two. Take a deep breath and try to maintain that chest lift. It should provide an immediate sense of openness.
When you’re required to stand for prolonged periods, try these tips:
- Wear well-cushioned soles with wide-enough shoes.
- Stand on rugs, carpet, or another softer surface whenever possible.
- Bring your work up to where you are instead of slumping over your work surface.
- Resting one leg at a time on a stool can also help reduce stress on your back.
In either position, you should never stay in the same place for too long. Take frequent breaks, stand up or sit down, stretch, and change positions often.
What it really takes to maintain good posture, however, is a strong core.
#2: Strengthen and Stabilize Your Core Daily
Core strength has been a fitness buzzword for a number of years now. If you’ve been to a class, you probably spent up to an hour focused on abs – but there’s a lot more to your core than that.
Keeping all the muscles and tendons throughout your abdomen (front, sides, and back) properly toned can ensure no single muscle group is overworked.
Improving your core strength also makes efforts to maintain proper posture a lot easier. Furthermore, making sure your core is strong can even help prevent other joint injuries, particularly to your knees.
Some of the most common core exercises should be incorporated into your daily routine to maintain a strong, healthy back.
Strengthen Those Obliques with Seated Side Bends
In a chair with feet flat on the floor, place one hand behind your head with the other reaching for the floor. Lean toward the side as if you were going to touch the floor.
Return to an upright position and repeat on the other side. This tightens and strengthens your oblique muscles and stabilizes your spine. Add weight as your strength increases.
Let the Bridge Strengthen Your Lower Hips
Lie flat on your back and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Raise your hips toward the sky until you’ve made a straight diagonal line with your body. (Do not arch your back.)
Inhale slowly for two counts, exhale slowly for two counts, then lower your hips back down to the floor. Repeat.
Playing Superman Is Super on Your Low Back
Lying face down on the floor this time, stretch your arms out in front of your head.
From here, raise all of your right extremities (head, shoulders, arms, legs) in tandem at least two inches off the ground. (Basically, pretend you’re flying like superman.)
Hold this position until you’re tired. Then lower, rest, and repeat on the left.
As you become stronger, you can try left and right (all extremities) at the same time.
Leg Lifts Make Strong Lower Abs and Pelvic Muscles
Although there are a number of effective ways to perform leg lifts, all of them work generally the same way. You work your lower abdominal and pelvic muscles by lying flat on the floor with legs outstretched. Contract your abs and raise one or both legs no more than six inches from the floor and hold for a count of eight or longer.
Ultimately, there are core strengthening and stabilization exercises appropriate for all fitness levels and ages. The best part is, there are all sorts of modifications to help protect your back while continuing to strengthen and stabilize.
Talk to your spinal specialist for recommendations based on your personal needs.
#3: Supplement Your Exercise Routine with Professional PT
While you’re working on your core strength at home or in the gym and practicing good posture throughout your day, sometimes a little professional advice and assistance are all you need.
Physical therapy combines specific exercises, various stretches, and hands-on manipulation techniques that target areas that need more strength and stabilization. Physical therapists teach proper sitting, standing, and other movements that will help you maintain spinal alignment and alleviate unnecessary strain.
Here at Atlanta Spine, we are surgical experts in treating the spine. At the same time, we are firm believers in pursuing non-surgical treatment whenever possible.
Even a minimal physical therapy plan spanning a few weeks can supplement your homecare routine tremendously. This extra care may be just what you need to protect your back from pain and injury over the long haul.
Get ahead of back pain. Incorporate these best practices into your daily routine.
Even if you already suffer from pain and discomfort, it’s not too late. Let Atlanta Spine get you on track to a healthy and pain-free back!