Preventing Back Injuries

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Low back pain is so common because it is one of the most vulnerable parts of our body, absorbing lots of torque and strain during the multitude of repetitive movements or static postures we place ourselves in throughout the day. Above you can see examples of the most common pathologies of the lumbar spine. 

What do you do to treat or prevent low back pain?

  • For the first 3 days after the onset of pain: relative rest, ice and gentle, pain-free movement
  • Avoid twisting, rounding, side-bending. Move from your legs/hips more, such as squatting with a flat back to bend or pick something up from the floor, and move from your feet when turning
  • Think “Opposite”: will this movement arch my low back or round it? Then flatten or arch your back with pelvic tilt to do the opposite.
  • Strengthen the deep abdominal muscles or core: this should be done by finding “neutral spine” (position of the back where you feel the least amount of pain or discomfort). The concept here is to STABILIZE the trunk while moving the arms and legs…this puts the focus on an entirely different area. It’s no longer about how big a movement is or how much weight you can lift when doing leg or arm work, but about not moving the trunk by engaging your abdominals.
  • Think about your ergonomics and posture and what position your back may be in while you sit or drive. Use a pillow behind your low back when sitting.
  • Avoid any prolonged positions…if your low back is starting to feel tighter, it’s time to change position!
  • Talk to a physical therapist to walk you through these concepts and develop a customized program that will be specific to what kind of back pain you have.

by Ravi Lescher, MPT

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Posture and Back Pain

Balanced89b7a4.1Good posture is a state of muscular and skeletal balance.  This protects the body against injury and dysfunction. Nearly 90% of American adults suffer from back pain.  Many have no idea of what is causing their pain or aggravating their symptoms.  For most, posture plays a critical role. Proper posture reduces strain to the back, neck, hips, knees and even feet.

New research shows that posture plays a role not only in appearance, but also on the mind. Holding oneself in a powerful, expansive pose has been shown to increase testosterone and lower cortisol, a stress hormone. The body actually convinces the brain that it has power.  The brain responds by generating different hormones that help us change our performance, reduce stress and increase our feelings of strength.

Simple Standing Posture Tips:
1.  Shorten the foot to make a “dome” under the arches.
2. Keep your weight back over your heels and push through the heels to lengthen the spine.
3. Squeeze your buttocks to set the pelvis in a neutral position.
4. Circle your shoulders up, backwards and drop them.
5. Drop the front of the ribcage downwards.
5. Lift your heart.
6. Bring your head back over the shoulders, hips and ankles.

Clearly, we all can benefit with a more thorough postural evaluation and there are entire books written solely written on posture.  Tightness in certain areas or weakness can make proper standing posture challenging. Proper instruction from a physical therapist can help retrain deeply ingrained faulty patterns that may be causing pain and dysfunction.