Be Good to Your Back
Back pain affects nearly 10 million Americans each year. Maintaining proper posture, balance, strength and flexibility can all help to increase your core strength and in turn support your back. Here are some tips from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association to help you take care of your back and reduce the risk of injury.
Start with good posture: Maintain good posture in day-to-day activities and while exercising. Keep your shoulders back when sitting, avoid slouching and don’t sit for more than 30 minutes without moving around.
Be smart about shoes: Though high heels are very fashionable, good back health depends on appropriate footwear, especially if you are active.
Strengthen your core: A strong core will help you maintain good back health and improve your balance. Exercises such as crunches, modified crunches with weights or medicine balls, planks, bridges, and back extensions will improve your core. Ask your athletic trainer or other expert, such as a physical therapist, to review your form so you get the best results.
Practice proper lifting techniques: Lift with your legs, bend at the knees and keep your back straight. Stronger legs will provide added power—whether for sports participation or household activities like lifting a laundry basket or even picking up children or pets. Minimize twisting, especially when carrying something. To minimize torque on the spine, turn your body instead and keep your hips and shoulders facing the same direction.
Take a break when bending or stooping: If your activity causes you to bend over or stoop, take frequent breaks and extend your back when you stand up.
Keep moving: Couch potatoes, get up! The best thing you can do for your back is to maintain mobility. Walking is an outstanding activity for good back health.
Support your back when sitting or sleeping: Sit with knees slightly bent and higher than your hips. When sleeping, maintain your lumbar curves whenever possible, using pillows if necessary.
Maintain back flexibility: Use movement and extension exercises to maintain proper back flexibility. Press-ups or standing back extensions are both good exercises.
Finally, listen to your back! Radiating pain from your spine into your thigh and/or down to your foot should not be ignored. While this symptom has a few possible causes, it should be addressed quickly. Stop your activity and rest. Be sure to consult your physician on how to proceed. Ignoring back pain can lead to complications.
Source: The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (www.nata.org), adapted by IlluminAge