Everyone has it once in a while – the dreaded lower back pain. It usually occurs after doing something that seems simple enough – like pulling laundry out of the top loader, dragging a heavy garbage can or picking up the baby from the kitchen floor. Or after a strenuous workout or activity where you pushed yourself just a little too far. But sometimes it starts as a nagging pain that gets worse over time often a result of sitting or standing too long.
The good news is that none these cases are likely to require surgery. What it does require is treating your body more kindly.
Pick Things Up the Right Way
It’s so easy to bend at the waist to pick something up, but that’s the worst thing you can do. Instead, you need to use your legs to propel your body up and down. Think of doing a squat. That’s the motion you use to lower yourself, pick up the object (or baby!) holding it close to your chest, then using your legs to raise yourself up.
Push or Pull
Push when you have the choice. That way, you’ll use both of your arms and chest muscles to move an object instead of using your back muscles to pull. And that goes for wheeled items, too. Dragging that rolling suitcase or cart behind you seems like it wouldn’t cause a problem but if it’s a heavy load, your back will take a toll If you can, push the suitcase or cart instead or, at the very least, drag for a minute or two on one side then change to the other side.
You might not think much about it, but how you get in and out of a chair is as important as how you sit. It’s all in the legs! To sit, use a squatting motion to place your hips at the back of the seat (it’s not as odd looking as it sounds…). Sit with the back of the chair supporting your back and keep feet flat on the floor. The only time not to sit in the back of the chair is if the seat back doesn’t have a curve. In that case, sit more forward on the chair keeping your head up and letting your back relax into its natural curve. To get up, lean forward from the hip then use your legs to push yourself up and out of the chair.
The one thing to remember while you walk is to keep your head up. When your head is up, the rest of the body aligns with it. When you need to stand for long periods, try to remember to keep your weight on your heels which helps your body align properly. And wear good shoes with plenty of padding and enough support for your foot type. Where do heels fit in? They don’t. If you’re going to wear them, make sure you give your body some time off and make sure you do stretching exercises regularly to offset the damage.
There are many good sites on the web that list or show you how to do basic stretching exercises for your back. A few of my favorite include sucking in your stomach muscles when you’re sitting (strengthens your body’s core), standing with palms on hips and gently bending backward and wall pushups. You’ll find most are easy to do and don’t take very long. You can sneak them in during the day especially if you have a desk job. Get up every 30 minutes or so and do some of these simple stretches. Or set aside 5-10 minutes each day to do them.
Aerobic exercise is good, too. Walking, low-impact routines, and swimming – they’re all great, low injury activities that keep your joints and muscles in good working order. Some modest weight training also helps. Do what you can – a few minutes several times a day adds up if you can’t fit in a longer session.
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