Tips to Help You Avoid Exacerbating Your Back Pain and Causing Further Injuries

Tips to Help You Avoid Exacerbating Your Back Pain and Causing Further Injuries

Guest Commentary by Tiffany Rowe.

If you’re experiencing back pain right now, know that you’re not the only one. Millions of people suffer from this issue around the country every year and, according to reports, it’s believed around 80 percent of people have to suffer through this type of pain at some point. This can be in the form of a constant, dull ache; a sudden, sharp pain that feels like a knife in the back; or a long-term condition that goes on for more than three months.

If you’re already suffering from back pain, you know it can decrease enjoyment of life, cause stress, be a financial burden if you have to take time off work, and just generally hold you up when it comes to achieving career goals.

While it’s certainly important to find ways to try to lessen the pain you’re experiencing, back pain treatment centers, various natural therapies, and surgery can help with this, it’s also necessary to avoid exacerbating your pain or causing further injuries. Read on for some tips you can follow to stay safer today.

Bend and Lift Carefully

For starters, watch how you bend and lift things, whether you’re at home, the office, or out and about. It’s common for people to put their back out more when they twist awkwardly to move items, bend at a funny angle, or lift bulky and/or heavy things alone. As such, you should educate yourself on proper lifting techniques. In particular, remember to press from your legs so you use their power, rather than your back muscles, to take the weight.

When you’re at work or home, try to get other people to help you move weighty items or those which are an awkward size or shape. Keep in mind that pushing things rather than pulling them if usually easier for the body too. If there’s no one around to help, make use of equipment such as trolleys and wheelbarrows, or divide things into lighter weights that are easy for you to carry solo.

If you have young children, be wary of carrying them for long periods on your back, shoulders or hips; doing so can stress your joints and muscles, and quickly put you out of alignment.

Improve Your Posture and Use Ergonomic Equipment

Next, to help your back cope, work on improving your posture. It pays to get some training to learn correct posture, particularly if you currently sit slumped at a desk or behind the wheel of a vehicle for many hours each week. See a physio, occupational therapist, chiropractor, osteopath, yoga or Pilates instructor, for instance, for advice and specialized techniques.

Furthermore, start by noticing how you sit and stand all day. If you’re like most people, you’re probably not currently making use of the most ergonomic equipment possible. To rectify this, use an ergonomic chair that supports your back, and check to see that the height of not only this chair but also your desk and computer screen and keyboard are at an optimum level.

You don’t want to be slumping forward with your neck sticking out to see a screen; or have to sit in a position that stops your feet from resting comfortably on the ground. Avoid, also, having your backside and back tilted at a funny angle, or having to reach your arms up to type away. It’s also helpful to use a supportive mouse pad; an adjustable desk that allows you to stand to complete work throughout the day; and a thick mat to stand on when you’re on your feet for long periods of time.

Take Regular Work Breaks

Something else that will make a difference to your level of pain is taking regular breaks from work to either rest your body, if you’ve been moving about for a long time or, in the case of most people, to get up to stretch and exercise if you’ve been sitting for too long.

Taking regular breaks means more than just grabbing a quick drink or going to the bathroom, and then getting straight back to work. Instead, take at least five to 10 minutes, or preferably longer, to do things like take a walk, climb stairs, do yoga or other stretches, complete body-weight exercises (e.g. lunges and pushups), or hit the gym.

Keep Work and Home Spaces Safe

Lastly, keep the spaces you work and relax in safer so you don’t end up falling, tripping, or slipping and hurting your back further that way. Ensure walkways are kept free of obstacles such as pets or children’s toys, piles of books or paperwork, and boxes; and always mop up wet or sticky surfaces ASAP. As well, work safely at heights; store heavy items on the ground rather than on top of high shelves so they can’t fall and knock you over; and make sure you have a good mattress to sleep on each night.
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Authored by: Tiffany Rowe

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Some good ideas on lifting things that are “weighty”, but I would venture to say that a decent number of people hurt their low backs lifting non-weighty things, too. I herniated a disc by picking up a stuffed animal while vacuuming. All I did was lean over (rather than bending at the knees) to pick it up, and during the movement of straightening to a standing position I herniated the first of many discs. Once you’ve damaged one lumbar disc it doesn’t take much to travel up and down the spine.
That was 28 years ago. In 2002 I had my first spinal fusion at L4-S1, and because the damage travels up the spine, I had my second spinal fusion: a monster T7-S1. Nobody ever thinks about using the proper mechanics of lifting with their legs for something stupid like a stuffed toy, but doing it the wrong way has made it a debilitating injury leading to a lifetime of pain.

Rachel

Barbara, if your mattress is over 8 years old you definitely need a new one. Usually slightly softer mattresses are better for back pain. Correct gentle exercise is important can you see a Physio? Pilates is good but only with a qualified specialist teacher. Classes are pretty cheap, under $10 usually. The muscles that hold the spine up need to be fit and strong and even. Try and get on a multi disciplinary pain management course if you have those in The USA. They are the gold standard for rehab in the UK and are usually three weeks residential courses in hospital. As well as getting your medication right (opiods alone are not going to work Hayden, although they are important) they will introduce you to suitable gentle exercise, occupational therapy (how to do,the tasks of daily living with less pain) and various other techniques. Hydrotherapy in a warm pool is often used and is very pleasant! I still practice it 12 years later by wearing a thin wetsuit to my local pool. It makes me feel wonderful as I stretch all my muscles out and get the endorphin rush. Getting in very cold water like the sea and lakes here also kills pain for a day, the endorphins do that! If doing that make sure you are safe! Good luck.

Rachel

I agree massage is definitely helpful, especially trigger point massage. It gets oxygen and nutrients to muscles that are in spasm. To reduce trigger point pain avoid missing meals, hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar).makes them worse. Massage should be very gentle. It starts the release process and the body does the rest itself, over firm massage can make pain permanently worse, so be careful! You can learn to massage yourself, buy “The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook” by Clair Davies NCTMB. New Harbinger Publications 2004. It is crammed with excellent information and useful techniques to reduce your own pain.

Rachel

You suggest surgery as an option for back pain. Bad idea! Are you aware that back surgery is the leading cause of chronic pain states for life? . Once you have a chronic pain state you will be disabled for life and your life ruined. I get my information from a top Comusltant Orthopaedic Physician with decades of experience. He says the majority if his patients are suffering chronic pain for life as a result of back surgery. Strengthening the correct muscles to correct posture is the best way to deal with back pain, as well as the other options you suggest,

Neldine Ludwigson

I would love to try massage therapy, but my budget isn’t up for it, and Medicare doesn’t cover much of anything.

Hayden

Dot/gov’s answer is to simply use or take what opioid medication “we” allow as the experts and tough it out. There is NOT one authority that could tolerate the continous pain that they expect MILLIONS of American pain management patients to accept as efficient pain management, now. WE, the pain management populous know this fact to be truth.

Barbara

All good tips – I’m 13 yrs retired (earlier than planned) due to neck and back injuries. Even with meds & Treatments my back pain is increasing and I’ve often wondered how my mattress & 4” foam topper affect my pain levels. My whole body is sore in the morning; I could remove the foam topper and have a somewhat firmer mattress. Do you have any ideas or suggestions? I will buy a new mattress if it would make a better sleep surface for me. Chronic pain is worse in lower lumbar and hips. Thanks!

Catherine Newton, CLT, NCLMBT14165

Many good suggestions for aspects of our lives & activities we often don’t realize affect us all in major ways.

I was more than a little sad you didn’t suggest Massage Therapy among your suggested resources. There are MANY Massage Therapists, like me, that focus on Pain Reduction their sole purpose or a significant part of their practice. My focus on Pain Reduction as part of my practice along with Cancer & Lymphedema Therapies is one of the reasons I subscribe to the National Pain Report.

There are MANY forms/modalities within the Therapeutic Massage Profession. Not all modalities of Massage are beneficial for every condition or patient/client in the same way. But there is excellent research on the benefits of Massage for many conditions including Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, Chronic Pain, Low Back Pain, Migraines, TMJ, Pelvic Platform Issues, just to name a few.

Among my patients/clients, I regularly see a range of small to great improvements in Pain Reduction & Quality of Life. And we work together to determine how to incorporate small changes in daily activities/routines as well as gentle stretches & other methods to re-educate/re-train their body & help them on their wellness/healing journey. It’s a process. All of you know that. But, I hope some of you could consider & be able to find a well trained, compassionate, Licensed Therapeutic Massage professional near you. Two professional associations you could use in your search are: AMTA: American Massage Therapy Association http://www.amtamassage.org -or- ABMP: Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals http://www.abmp.com