Can back pain be
Recurring back pain
resulting from improper body mechanics or other nontraumatic causes is often
preventable. A combination of exercises that don't jolt or strain the back,
maintaining correct posture, and lifting objects properly can help prevent
injuries are caused or aggravated by stressors such as heavy lifting, contact
stress (repeated or constant contact between soft body tissue and a hard or
sharp object, such as resting a wrist against the edge of a hard desk or
repeated tasks using a hammering motion), vibration, repetitive motion, and
awkward posture. Applying ergonomic principles--designing furniture and tools to
protect the body from injury--at home and in the workplace can greatly reduce
the risk of back injury and help maintain a healthy back. More companies and
homebuilders are promoting ergonomically designed tools, products, workstations,
and living space to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury and
The use of wide elastic
belts that can be tightened to “pull in” lumbar and abdominal muscles to prevent
low back pain remains controversial. A landmark study of the use of lumbar
support or abdominal support belts worn by persons who lift or move merchandise
found no evidence that the belts reduce back injury or back pain. The 2-year
study, reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH) in December 2000, found no statistically significant difference in
either the incidence of workers’ compensation claims for job-related back
injuries or the incidence of self-reported pain among workers who reported they
wore back belts daily compared to those workers who reported never using back
belts or reported using them only once or twice a
Although there have been
anecdotal case reports of injury reduction among workers using back belts, many
companies that have back belt programs also have training and ergonomic
awareness programs. The reported injury reduction may be related to a
combination of these or other factors.
Quick tips to a healthier
Following any period of prolonged inactivity, begin a
program of regular low-impact exercises. Speed walking, swimming, or stationary
bike riding 30 minutes a day can increase muscle strength and flexibility. Yoga
can also help stretch and strengthen muscles and improve posture. Ask your
physician or orthopedist for a list of low-impact exercises appropriate for your
age and designed to strengthen lower back and abdominal
- Always stretch before exercise or other strenuous
- Don’t slouch when standing or sitting. When standing,
keep your weight balanced on your feet. Your back supports weight most easily
when curvature is reduced.
- At home or work, make sure your work surface is at a
comfortable height for you.
- Sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper
position and height for the task. Keep your shoulders back. Switch sitting
positions often and periodically walk around the office or gently stretch
muscles to relieve tension. A pillow or rolled-up towel placed behind the small
of your back can provide some lumbar support. If you must sit for a long period
of time, rest your feet on a low stool or a stack of
- Wear comfortable, low-heeled
- Sleep on your side to reduce any curve in your spine.
Always sleep on a firm surface.
- Ask for help when transferring an ill or injured
family member from a reclining to a sitting position or when moving the patient
from a chair to a bed.
- Don’t try to lift objects too heavy for you. Lift
with your knees, pull in your stomach muscles, and keep your head down and in
line with your straight back. Keep the object close to your body. Do not twist
- Maintain proper nutrition and diet to reduce and
prevent excessive weight, especially weight around the waistline that taxes
lower back muscles. A diet with sufficient daily intake of calcium, phosphorus,
and vitamin D helps to promote new bone growth.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking reduces blood flow to the
lower spine and causes the spinal discs to
© 2010 Vivacare. Last updated April 5, 2011.
Reference: The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and