Tips to Keep Your Back and Spine Healthy
Now that spring is here and the weather is getting warmer, it’s a great time to take on new projects like spring cleaning or home improvements, and to do some outdoor activities like gardening and playing in the sandbox with your kids. All of that bending and lifting can put a lot of stress on your back though, leading to pain or even injury. Hagit Rajter, physical therapist, offers these tips for keeping your back and spine healthy:
1. Pay attention to your posture. When sitting for long periods of time, like at a ball game, you should try to use good posture, keeping your lumbar spine straight while maintaining the natural curvature of your lower back. Avoid slouching or exaggerating the curve in your lower back. You can use a lumbar roll for additional support.
2. Adjust your sitting position regularly. Sitting in one position for too long can overload your spine, which can cause pain. Stand upright and do a back stretch by bending backwards 5-7 times or walk for a few minutes. If bending backwards causes you pain, discontinue the stretch until you can talk to your physician or physical therapist (PT).
3. Don’t stay stooped. When doing activities that require you to stoop down, like lifting, gardening, cleaning or playing with children on the floor, periodically take a break to stand up and stretch, bending backwards 5-7 times.
4. Lift with care. When lifting heavy objects, stand with your feet wide apart and lift the object close to your body, keeping your lumbar spine straight and the curve in your lower back moderate. The power to lift should come from the gluteus (the buttocks musculature), not the trunk.
5. Don’t take a load off too soon. Don’t sit immediately after finishing a rigorous activity like doing heavy lifting or exercising. Instead stand up straight and take a few gentle backwards bends or walk a little bit. Once you do sit down, remember to maintain good posture–no slouching.
6. Posture matters when you sleep. If you wake up with back pain, consult with a PT who can offer sleeping tips to maintain good posture throughout the night.
7. Keep it moving and build strong support. Stay active and keep your back muscles strong to support your trunk. Core stability exercises and back extensor strengthening are key to a healthy spine. If you have a lot of back pain, a PT will be able to help you develop an appropriate exercise program.