3 Ways You are Hurting Your Back Everyday
Nearly six billion people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, when that many people are affected, it's usually not a matter of “if” you will have back pain but “when.” The good news is that most back pain is preventable: research estimates that nearly 85% of back injuries are from repetitive misuse. Here are three ways you are hurting your back, and how to stop:
1. DON’T BEND THE WRONG WAY AFTER SLEEPING
The spine consists of discs in between each vertebra, which allow for movement and cushion. These discs are primarily made of fluid, which is lost during the day and reabsorbed while you sleep, in a process known as disc imbibition. In fact, you lose up to 19 mm of height each day from the loss of disc fluid! After lying down for 2-3 hours, the discs reabsorb their lost fluid and are at full size. When they are full size, the potential stresses placed on the discs are increased by 300%. As a result, don’t flex/bend your spine for one hour after you have rested for at least 2-3 hours. If you must bend during this time, try squatting with your back straight. Avoiding flexion the spine after 2-3 hours of sleep is a great way to protect your back. Please understand, that I’m not saying you can’t bend during these aforementioned times, I’m saying it is especially important that you bend the CORRECT way.
2. STOP USING YOUR BACK WHEN YOU STAND UP FROM SITTING
Standing up correctly from the seated position is one of the most important things you can do to protect your back. It is also one of the easiest. Most people use their low backs to assist them in getting up from the seated position. This is wrong! Think about how many times you get up from sitting. Every time you use your low back to stand, you are flexing (bending) your spine and placing unnecessary stress onto it. Here is the easy solution: before you get up from sitting, scoot all the way to the edge of your seated surface, keep your back straight, and get up using your legs. This may feel strange at first, but should become second nature after a few days. One tip to get started: use your arms to assist your legs in the process. Place your hands into fists and use them to push up off the seated surface, while using your legs. Do not place your fists on your legs. Again, at no time will you flex the low back or use it to assist you in the standing process.
Be sure to not bend your spine—keeping it neutral, as you sit down, too. Simply reverse this standing process, and use the same technique to sit down properly.
3. STOP PUSHING AND PULLING OBJECTS INCORRECTLY
The safest way to push or pull an object is to direct the force of the movement through your low back. I will qualify the low back as the area between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your hips. It is within this area that you should visualize a direct line of pull going into this region or out from the low back if you are pushing.
You may apply this same concept to opening doors. Each time you open a door, try to open the door with the force directed through the low back. People typically open doors with the force directed to the right or left of their body, which creates a twisting torque. Try directing the force of the door through your low back instead.
Dr. Zumstein is the author of Secrets to Preventing Back and Neck Pain: 60 Ways to Protect Your Spine and founder of The Back Safety & Wellness Consultants. You can find his book, information about his company, or sign up for his free newsletter at www.backsafetyandwellness.com.