Tips for a Healthy Back

Standing

  • When standing, keep one foot in front of the other with your knees slightly bent to take pressure off the lower back.
  • Placing one foot on a higher surface such as a ledge or trash can flexes the hip and takes pressure off the back. Alternate your feet depending on the length of time standing.

 

Sitting

  • When sitting, position the height of the chair so that the knees are slightly higher than the hips to take pressure off the lower back.
  • Sitting in a chair with a straight upright back is better than sitting in a reclined position.
  • When sitting, your feet should be flat on the floor or on a foot rest. Change your sitting position every few minutes.

 

Sitting at Work

  • If your job requires you to sit for most of the day, stand, stretch your back and walk around the room approximately every thirty minutes.

 

Reaching

  • Use a step stool so that you do not have to reach as high. This is easier on your neck.
  • Looking and reaching up is very strenuous to the neck. Use the non-affected side when reaching over shoulder level.

 

Moving Heavy Objects

  • Pushing is easier on you back than pulling. Use your arms and legs to start the push.

 

Lifting

  • Avoid bending or twisting when lifting. As long as you lift objects straight in front of you and close to your body, you should not have a problem.

 

Lifting Light to Medium Weight Objects

  • When lifting objects that are more than half your body weight, always have someone else to help you.
  • Kneel down on one knee with your other foot flat on the floor as near as possible to the item you are lifting. Lift with your legs, not your back, keeping the object close to your body at all times.

 

Lifting Heavier Weight

  • Bend at the knees and hips and use your legs to perform the lifting. Keep your back straight and maintain the object as close to your body as possible.

 

Carrying

  • When you have a choice, carry two small objects (one in each hand) rather than carrying one large object.
  • When carrying large items, always keep them close to your body. The further you hold the object away from your body, the more leverage on your back which creates more pressure.

 

Sleeping

  • Sleeping on your back puts approximately 50 lbs. of pressure on your back. Putting a couple of pillows under your knees reduces that pressure to half.
  • When lying on your side, assume a fetal position with a pillow between your knees.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach or in a position where you are half on your stomach and half on your side. This twisting position significantly increases pressure on both the neck and lower back.

 

Pillow Support

  • The best position to sleep is on your back with a thin pillow (2 to 3 inches) under your neck. Firm, fiber filled pillows are best because they do not break down and flatten throughout the night.
  • When sleeping on your side, the pillow should be thick enough to keep your head level with your spine. People with wider shoulders should use thicker pillows and people with narrower shoulders should use thinner pillows.

 

Mattresses

  • Choose a mattress that suits both you and your spouse. Many mattresses can be purchased so that they have a different firmness on each side.

 

Weight Control

  • Additional weight puts strain on your back. Every pound of weight on the abdomen increases 3 pounds of pressure on your back.

 

Smoking

  • Smokers are more prone to back pain than non-smokers. Nicotine restricts the blood flow to the discs that cushion your vertebrae.

 

Minor Back Pain

  • Treat minor back pain with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories (Advil/Motrin), gentle stretching exercises and ice packs.

 

Acute Back Pain

  • When a new injury occurs you experience sharp, stabbing pain. For new injuries with severe pain, use ice 15 minutes on and one hour off repetitively throughout the day. Anti-inflammatories, gentle stretching and bed rest are also recommended.

 

Chronic Back Pain

  • Chronic back pain is a dull, bruising like type of pain. This type of pain is common with conditions such as arthritis. Heat is to be used for 10 to 15 minutes and three to four times per day.

 

Driving

  • When driving adjust your seat bottom so that the front of the seat bottom is higher than the rear.
  • Adjust the seat back so that it is almost vertical like it would be in a truck.
  • Moving your seat two to three inches closer to the steering wheel causes flexion in the knees and hips which reduces pressure in the lower back.
  • The head rest on the seat back should be positioned one to three inches behind your head, but at the center of the head.

 

Driving with Neck Problems

  • Keeping your elbows closer to your side by holding the steering wheel at four and eight o’clock, greatly reduces pressure on the neck.
  • Avoid resting your arm at shoulder level, such as on the windowsill or the seat back. Always try to keep you elbows as close to the side as possible.

 

Desk Work – Low Back

  • When sitting at a desk your chair should be positioned low enough so that your knees are higher than your hips and the seat back is no more than 15 degrees inclined. Keeping the knees higher than the hips greatly reduces pressure off the lower back. In some instances, you may need to prop your feet on a small stool to accomplish this.

 

Desk Work – Neck

  • Ideally, the computer monitor should be at eye level to the center of the monitor. Try to avoid bending and twisting the neck repetitively while working on the computer.
  • The computer keyboard should be lower than desktop height. Having your elbows at by your side and your forearms parallel with the ground is the ideal position for both the keyboard and mouse.
  • When working on the computer, keep your elbow close to your body rather than reaching at arm’s distance for the mouse. This will take pressure off the neck and upper back.

 

Sitting at a Desk

  • When sitting at a desk for long periods of time, a low back pillow or low back support may be needed to help tolerate back pain.

 

Exercise

  • Regular physical activity can help ease inflammation and muscle tension. Core exercises as well as thigh and hamstring exercises are important for a strong and healthy back. Most people who suffer from low back pain have weak abdominal muscles, weak back muscles and tight hamstrings.
  • Walking, swimming, especially the back stroke, and bicycling regularly are all excellent exercises for the back.

 

Posture

  • Always remember to keep your stomach in and your head up.
  • Maintain good posture and avoid slumping in your chair, hunching over your desk or walking with your shoulders hunched.

 

High Heels

  • High heels create a shift in center of gravity and strain the lower back. Stick to shoes with one inch heels or less. If you must wear high heels, bring along a pair of low heeled shoes and change into them if possible.

 

Skinny Jeans

  • Clothing that is tight fitting interferes with bending, sitting, walking and circulation. All these factors can aggravate the lower back condition.

 

Lighten you wallet

  • Sitting on an overstuffed wallet may cause discomfort and back pain. If you are going to sit for long periods of time while driving or working, take the wallet out of your pocket.

 

Handbags and Briefcases

  • Buy a handbag or briefcase with a wide suitable strap that is long enough to reach over your head. A messenger bag is made to wear this way. Having the strap on the opposite shoulder of the bag distributes the weight more evenly, keeps your shoulders even and your back and neck pain free.
  • When carrying a heavy bag or briefcase without straps, switch hands frequently to avoid putting all the stress on one side of the body. To lighten the load, purge bags periodically and purchase backpacks or other carriers for items you do not need.

 

Back Braces

  • Various back supports are available from elastic bands to special corsets. They can be helpful when performing unusual jobs where you will be bending or lifting more frequently than usual, such as working in the yard.

 

Bending

  • Always bend your knees and hips, not your back, when bending down to the floor.
  • Avoid bending and twisting at the same time.
  • Avoid looking up and reaching up at the same time, especially with both arms.

 

Disc/Arthritis exercises

  • People with disc problems and arthritis in their lower back could benefit from doing knee to chest exercises on a daily basis. To perform these exercises lay down on your back and pull the right knee to the right side of your chest for fifteen seconds, lower the leg and repeat on the left side. This is repeated three times and then both legs are pulled together to the chest and held for fifteen seconds. This is also repeated three times. This exercise is best done in the morning before getting out of bed and at night before going to sleep.

 

Orthotics

  • Some individuals have foot and ankle conditions, such as pronation or supination, congenital short legs or have one hip higher than the other which can lead to increased back pain. Many times using orthotics in their shoes can help balance these imbalances and relieve back pain.