Be Kind to Your Spine

Be Kind to Your Spine

1. Engage in a properly designed exercise program
A sound exercise program for the back includes exercises to stretch and strengthen back muscles (particularly the extensor muscles) and the muscles supporting the back. Avoid any activities that place undue stress on the back (i.e., any exercise that involves hyperextending your back).

2. Keep your abdominal muscles in top condition
Frequently referred to as "anterior back muscles," the abdominal muscles play an important role in supporting your back. A protruding stomach can lead to a lordosis (sway back), a condition that places considerable stress on the posterior elements of the spine.

3. Maintain good posture while standing
Good posture begins with your head and your pelvis. Get them properly aligned, and the rest of your body will fall into line. If you must stand for an extended period of time, don't stand in the same position for too long.

4. Assume a proper position while sitting
The best position is one in which you keep your knees level with your hips and your feet flat on the floor.

5. Sit only in chairs that minimize the stress on your back
The chair should have armrests because the support provided by armrests helps to ease the load on your spine. The chair should also be adjustable in height so that you can obtain the proper sitting position.

6. Maintain proper body mechanics while traveling by car
Put a pillow or a rolled up towel behind your back to support it. If you have to be in the car for an extended period of time, stop every hour or so and get out to stretch and walk around. If you're driving, put your car seat into a comfortable position as far forward as possible so that you can avoid overreaching for the pedals.

7. Wear comfortable shoes
Comfortable, orthopaedically sound shoes make it easier to maintain proper posture and minimize undue stress on your back. High-heeled shoes should be avoided because they shift the body's weight forward and place extra strain on the back.

8. Adhere to proper lifting techniques
Stand close to the object you're lifting, with your feet apart. Bend your knees, keeping your back as straight as possible. Tighten your stomach muscles before you lift. Lift with your legs - not your back. Hold the lifted object close to your body.

9. Keep your body fat at a minimum level
By shedding extra pounds, you reduce the load that your spine must carry and your back muscles must support. As a result, you reduce the stress your back must handle.

10. "Do your best and leave the rest."
Sage advice for reducing and coping with stress - perhaps the most frequent cause of back pain.