Saturday, January 14, 2006

back pain and back injury, prevention of

The most common cause of back pain is muscle strain. Because of the pace of modern life, people's muscles remain tense and may not have the flexibility to function properly. Such simple acts as reaching for the phone or bending over can trigger pain. Regular physical exercise is the best way to relieve stress and build strong muscles. The lumbar region of the spine-the lower back-is especially dependent on strong muscles for support.
Aerobic exercise is the most effective type of exercise. Any exercise that raises the pulse rate and maintains it at an appropriate level for 20 or 30 minutes is considered aerobic. This can include brisk walking, bicycling, swimming, jogging, cross-country skiing, jumping rope, or aerobic dancing. Each exercise session should begin with a period of stretching and warm-up exercise to increase flexibility and prevent injury. To be effective, aerobic exercise should be undertaken three or more times each week. It is important to work up gradually to the prescribed level. A doctor should be consulted before beginning a vigorous exercise program, especially if there is a history of chronic back pain. In these cases, activities that involve pounding movements in the legs or sudden twisting should be avoided. Brisk walking may be best.
A daily program of specific exercises for the back can help build strength, flexibility, and range of motion. These can include sit-ups done with knees bent, curl-ups, and pelvic tilts. The exercises must be done smoothly while breathing normally. Exercises that cause pain should be avoided. There are a number of ways to reduce back strain during daily routines. The following should be kept in mind:
1. Always bend at the knees-not the waist.
2. Prop one leg up to reduce stress when standing.
3. Lean on the sink when shaving or brushing teeth.
4. Distribute weight evenly when carrying packages or luggage.
5. Support your lower back when sitting, using a small pillow if necessary.
6. When lifting, bend at the knees, keeping the body straight, and holding what is being lifted close to the body.
7. Push heavy objects rather than lifting or pulling.
Gutman, R. The Healthy Back Book. Chicago, Blue Cross/Blue Shield. 1986.

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