It’s the nagging twinge above your tailbone after sitting too long on the subway. It’s the strain between your shoulders when carrying groceries to your third-story apartment. It’s the dull backache following a long run or walk. If these aches and pains sound familiar, you’re not alone.
Poor posture, excess weight, improper lifting or exercise techniques, age and genetics are all common culprits of back pain. Unmanaged stress can also trigger back pain because of the tension you may hold in your shoulders and back. Whatever the cause, back pain can be so intense that people miss out on work, playtime with their kids and social events.
Tips to prevent back pain
According to Dr. Gotlin, a few simple steps can prevent most people from developing back pain.
- Toughen up. Regular exercise helps control weight and improves the strength and flexibility of your muscles. Start with some simple back muscle exercises to increase your flexibility and strength, and to alleviate any existing back pain. Try these moves:
- Lie flat on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, crossed arms over your chest or hands behind your neck.
- Tighten stomach muscles and raise your shoulders off the floor, then slowly lower back down.
- Unlike traditional sit-ups, these crunches don’t typically put excessive pressure on the discs in your spine.
- While on your back, with your knees bent, lift your hips off the floor until shoulders, hips and knees are in a straight line.
- Hold for 6 seconds and then lower hips to the floor and rest.
- Repeat up to 10 times.
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- Maintain a healthy weight. “Body weight plays a big role in the stress placed on the spine,” says Dr. Gotlin. Keep within 10 pounds of your ideal weight to keep your back healthy. Find your body mass index (BMI) to see if your weight is within a healthy range.
- Straighten up. Poor posture, such as slouching or standing hunched over, can lead to muscle fatigue and injury. “Even if you don’t feel pain from poor posture now, it may catch up to you in the future,” Dr. Gotlin says. Make adjustments to your workstation or your desk at home to fit your comfort level. For example, when sitting, keep your knees slightly higher than your hips to provide lower back support.
- Practice good technique. When carrying heavy loads, make sure to lift with your legs and thighs to avoid back strains. “Proper lifting technique engages your lower limbs – not your back,” Dr. Gotlin says.
- Chill out. Stress causes muscle tension, which leads to aches and pains. If you’re experiencing stress-related pain, develop coping mechanisms that can help relax your body and mind.
Find a physician who can help you cope with and treat back pain by calling 1-855-411-LWNY (5969), or visit chpnyc.org.