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Prevention Head to Toe- Preventing Back Pain or Injury
Whether it’s dull, achy, sharp, stabbing, constant or intermittent, back pain can make it difficult to function in everyday life.
There are many causes of back pain including accidents, strains and injuries, but remember, pain is a symptom. Pain from other areas might be felt in the back as well. This is called referred pain. Many disorders in the abdomen area -- such as appendicitis, bladder infections, pelvic infections, aneurysms, among others -- can cause pain to be felt in the back. Your health care provider will keep this in mind when evaluating your pain.
Oh, my aching back!
Some common causes of back pain include:
- Problems with a person’s frame:
Hyperlordosis: (increased curve in the lower back)
Scoliosis: (an S-shaped spine)
- Poor posture while sitting or standing
- Bad lifting techniques
- Sleeping in a bed that offers poor support.
- Muscle and ligament injuries: Activities like shoveling snow or moving furniture can sometimes overstretch the muscles or ligaments, causing strains or sprains.
- Disc injuries: Discs act as shock absorbers between the bones of your spine. Physical stress or injury can cause them to rupture or herniate. This causes inflammation and pressure on nerves, causing pain such as sciatica.
- Osteoarthritis: As you get older, discs break down and shrink, causing the facet joints of the spine to rub against one another. This can make your back feel stiff when you wake up or hurt after standing or walking for long periods of time.
- Osteoporosis: Weaker bones make fractures more likely, including fractures in your spine.
- Spinal stenosis: When the space around your spinal cord narrows, it puts pressure on the nerves and causes pain. Osteoarthritis is a common cause, which can lead to bony growths called spurs that press into the area around the spinal cord.
- Spondylolisthesis: If the joints and ligaments of your spinal column become too loose or if one or both of the wing-shaped parts of a vertebra are defective or fracture, this causes the vertebrae to ‘‘slip’’ or slide over the bone below, pressing into nerves and causing pain.
Being overweight: Excess weight, especially in the abdominal area puts a strain on the back.
- Sedentary lifestyle: Weak core muscles of the abdomen and back will not properly support the spine.
- Stress: Under stress muscles tense. That makes strains or sprains more likely.
- Depression: Back pain and depression often go together, and each can make the other worse.
- Smoking: Smoking ages the spine.
Ways to prevent back pain and injury include:
- Work on improving your posture. Don't slouch. When standing, keep your weight balanced between both feet. If you stand for long periods, wear flat shoes with good arch support and get a box or step about 6 inches high to rest a foot on from time to time.
- To promote good posture when sitting, choose a chair that allows you to rest both feet flat on the floor while keeping your knees level with your hips. If necessary, prop your feet with a footstool or other support. If the chair doesn't support your lower back's curve, place a rolled towel or small pillow behind your lower back.
- Learn techniques to manage stress.
- Keep weight in a healthy range.
- Increase physical activity. Include exercises to strengthen the core muscles to help support the back.
- Modify repetitive tasks. Try to alternate physically demanding tasks with less demanding ones.
- Learn proper lifting techniques. When lifting heavy objects, don't bend at the waist. Squat with your legs and keep your back upright as you grasp the object close to your body and stand upright again. Let your legs do the lifting, not your back. If it is too heavy to lift, get someone to help.
- Seek help for depression.
- Avoid smoking and inhaling secondhand smoke.
It is important to see your doctor for back pain if:
- Your pain is not better after 10 days.
- Your pain is due to an injury.
- You are having numbness or tingling, bowel or bladder problems, or unexplained weight loss.
- You have a history of cancer, osteoporosis, or immune system problems.
- You are age 70 or older.
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The Bloomsburg University Wellness Committee promotes optimal health and well-being through education and programs supporting healthy lifestyle choices.