Warmer temperatures mean you, and I will spend more time both physically active and just being outside: at work in the yard, strolling in the park, playing sports, out on vacations, moving into a new home, walking the dog several times a day… and the list goes on. While this increased level of physical activity is a much needed and healthy break from the relatively sedentary life imposed by the colder weather of the past seasons, it also means that you will have to “watch your back.” And I don’t mean this metaphorically.
According to recent studies, the number of back-related visits to the doctor is significantly higher during the summer season. For example, in the U.S. alone, the summer of 2014 saw 3.7 million people visit the doctor’s office between June and August for back-related pain and injuries alone.
Breaking Bad Habits
When you need to move heavier items around, whether it’s a piece of equipment, luggage or furniture, make sure to lift it using your hip and legs. Get as close as possible to the item and avoid putting pressure on your back as you lift. The trick is to bend as little as possible and to use your strength to lift upward instead of horizontally. Keep your back straight: bend at your knees.
More than likely, that big, heavy object which you need to lift can wait: it’s not going to go away on it’s own. Whenever possible, avoid lifting or moving heavy objects on your own. Get help from a family member, a friend or even a neighbor. If needed, hire someone to help you. By doing so, you may be saving yourself a lot of pain and discomfort which could last a very long time.
When traveling or moving, pack smartly. Instead of stuffing all your belongings into one big bag, use multiple, smaller bags to spread the weight. Divide and conquer: your back will thank you.
Take a Break
It is important to give yourself a break from sitting for long in the same position. Make it a habit of taking breaks at regular intervals by walking or stretching. This will help your whole body and your mind.
The same principle applies, in reverse, when doing physical chores. Stretch between tasks: it will allow you to recover and you’ll be back stronger, probably finishing the task even faster.
When your traveling and forced to stay in the same sitting position for an extended period, make sure that you maintain good posture. Flights and long car rides can be quite hard on your back and spine; a good posture is the only way to avoid pains and extended discomfort. You don’t want to feel the pain of the travel long after you’ve arrived.
Here’s the proper and safer way to sit: keep your back in a normal, slightly arched position. Make sure your chair supports your lower back. Keep your head and shoulders upright.
It is critical to ensure that you don’t fall: accidents that involve falling could cause severe and costly damage to your back and spine. Here are a few ways to minimize your chances of falling:
- Wear fitting shoes equipped with non-skid, rubber soles. Loosely fitted footwear increase the chances of falling significantly.
- Speaking of working outdoors: before you even start working, eliminate the clutter from your workspace. Roll up that hose, put away the rake and secure all other gardening tools. Tripping over objects is all too common when your working outdoor.
- Beware of your pets: you’d be surprised how many accidents are due to pet owners tripping over their furry friends. When enjoying outdoor activities with your pets, it is a good idea to place a bell around their neck to ensure that you know where they are at all times.
Sleeping correctly will help your body and mind recover from the previous day’s chores, fill you up with energy and prepare you for even more enjoyable days ahead. When it comes to sleeping, there is no “ideal” sleeping position. Most individuals will change positions several times during the night. On the other hand, any sleeping position also has the potential to amplify back pain if you maintain it for an extended period. The most problematic sleeping position is sleeping on your stomach: it typically flattens the natural curve of your spine by adding unnecessary strain on your back muscles. If you often wake up as tired as when you went to bed, then it may be time to reassess how you sleep. As usual, the real culprit may not be your rest position, but your daily activity.
Afshin Razi, MD, an orthopedic spine specialist and spokesperson for the AAOS, says the following: “Many back injuries occur from sudden movements during daily activities such as bending, lifting, and twisting. Always be mindful of the way you’re positioning your body and practice safe lifting techniques during these motions. Keep the core muscles in your back and abdomen strong and flexible. Strengthening your core muscles will help to support your spine.”
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Here’s what the AAOS is about: “Founded in 1933, the Academy is the preeminent provider of musculoskeletal education to orthopedic surgeons and others in the world. Its continuing medical education activities include a world-renowned Annual Meeting, multiple CME courses held around the country and at the Orthopaedic Learning Center, and various medical and scientific publications and electronic media materials.”