Recommendations for maintaining a healthy back and a strong spine

Back pain can make you miserable. Low back pain is one of the most common reasons for a visit to the doctor these days. Are you doing all you can to keep your back strong and healthy? Here are some tips to keep your spine healthy, and maintain a strong back to prevent unnecessary pain and discomfort.

General advice
• Don’t slouch when standing or sitting. The lower back can support a person’s weight most easily when the curvature is reduced. When standing, keep your weight balanced on your feet. Correct posture can prevent most back issues. Stand tall, balanced, and aligned.
• Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
• Following any period of prolonged inactivity, a regimen of low-impact exercises is advised. Perform a different task every hour or so & use different muscles to relieve back.
• Learn to hold the phone properly. We all find it necessary to multi-task these days, but holding the phone to your ear with your shoulder puts a great deal of strain on your neck, shoulders, and spine. Use the speakerphone or hold the phone to your ear maintaining proper neck and head alignment while using the phone. When texting or reading keep device at chest or eye level to decrease neck and back stress.
• Sleep properly. Not only is adequate sleep necessary to overall health, HOW you sleep is important for spinal health. If you sleep on your back, try placing a pillow under your knees to relieve the pressure on your spine. Even better, sleep on your side.
• Stay hydrated. The vertebral discs are 88% water. Dehydration can lead to degeneration of the discs.
• Maintain proper nutrition and diet to reduce and prevent excessive weight gain. Excess weight puts pressure on all the joints, but a large stomach can pull the pelvis forward, arching the back and squashing discs in the spine.
• Quit smoking. Smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine, which can contribute to spinal disc degeneration. Smoking also increases the risk of osteoporosis and impedes healing. Coughing due to heavy smoking also may cause back pain.

Keep active
• Exercise at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Speed walking, swimming, or stationary bike riding can increase muscle strength and flexibility. Choose a dynamic warm-up that increases your heart rate & elevates body temperature. Yoga also can help stretch and strengthen muscles and improve posture. Start slow, building up to higher intensity exercise.
• Always stretch before exercise or other strenuous physical activity.

• At home or work, make sure work surfaces are at a comfortable height.
• Sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper position. Keep shoulders back and spine straight.
• Look straight without neck strain. Keep monitor at arms’ length
• Feet should touch the floor or be supported. During prolonged periods of sitting, elevate feet on a low stool or a stack of books.
• Switch sitting positions often and periodically walk around, recline in your chair for a moment or gently stretch muscles to relieve tension.

• Estimate the weight to be lifted and ensure a clear path to move object. Don’t try to lift objects that are too heavy.
• Keep a wide stance and bend from the legs (not from the waist). Lift from the knees, pull the stomach muscles in, and keep the head down and in line with a straight back.
• When lifting, keep objects close to the body. Do not twist when lifting, rather pivot from hips and feet for less back stress

• Take a few seconds to get comfortable when you first get in the car. Adjust the seat height and distance so knees are slightly bent and back supported by the seat back
• Your arms should comfortably rest on the steering wheel. When your seat is too far back, you must bend your back to reach the wheel and the controls, straining your back.
• Place a small pillow or a rolled towel behind your lower back to give your lumbar extra support. This is particularly important when you undertake long drives.
• Take frequent breaks in long drives: walk around to loosen up tightened muscles, stretch your back

Child care
• Use your whole body by bending hips, knees and ankles, keeping child close, when lifting them (Don’t twist & lift)
• If carrying a baby on side, alternate the sides frequently.
• Adjust handle of stroller to belly button level, and push with relaxed, slightly bent elbows
• Use a pillow or arm rest to support the baby during feeding
• When on the floor, sit with your back supported or kneel.

House work
• To avoid straining your back during house chores, be sure to stretch and warm your muscles first, avoid awkward twisting and excessive reaching
• Stand upright while mopping or vacuuming
• Use a small stool to sit or kneel in comfort while cleaning the lower fixtures
• If bending for a task, arch back, take breaks, and change postures frequently
• Standing at sink or counter: wear comfortable shoes or stand on rubber mat and be mindful of posture, keeping your head up

The above information will benefit a majority of people with back pain. If any of the above guidelines causes an increase of pain or spreading of pain to the legs, do not continue the activity and seek the advice of a physician or physical therapist.

If daily housekeeping and other chores become difficult due to back pain and stiffness, call Dr. Anton Pyatetsky at 724.962.2070. He can determine the reason for your pain and help you decide on an effective treatment plan that’s right for you.