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10 Tips for Preventing Back Pain

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Updated June 26, 2008

Preventing back pain may be the simplest way to deal with it. In this article you can find tips for helping to prevent back pain.

1. Lift Safely

Safe lifting involves using your legs to spare your back. Bend your knees, tighten your abdominal muscles, and keep the object being lifted close to your body. For more tips, see Safe Lifting Techniques, which provides an illustrated step-by-step guide.

It is also a good idea to be aware of unsafe lifting techniques, so that you can avoid them. Unsafe lifting techniques usually involve positions that will cause you strain when you add a load to them.

2. Minimize and Avoid Twisting Motions

The use of twisting motions should be carefully monitored, and scaled back or eliminated as appropriate. When lifting heavy objects, twisting should be avoided. When doing heavy work, such as housework, try to keep twisting to a minimum. In other activites, pay close attention to how you are moving your spine, as well as any warning signs such as pain or tightness, that may indicate trouble. Scale back on the twisting according to the warning signs your body gives you.

3. Drink Plenty of Water

Our bodies are comprised of approximately 70% water. Enough water keeps us fluid, rather than stiff. Drinking plenty of water enhances the height of intervertebral disks, keeping them the healthy shock absorbers they are. Water is necessary for nearly every bodily process so is good to have in generous supply, at least 6-8 8-ounce glasses per day. It is almost impossible to drink too much water. For the facts on dehydration, read Dehydration: What a Pain!

4. Live an Active Life and Strengthen Your Abs

Exercise and activity keep the muscles of the spine strong. The most important muscles to strengthen to avoid back pain are the abdominals. Include stretching in your fitness program to avoid stiffness, which causes pain. Another reason to stay flexible is that stiff muscles are a precursor to injury.

5. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is generally an excellent way to prevent all kinds of diseases and discomforts. For the spine, it avoids compression and loading of the intervertebral disks, prevents postural abnormalities, such as anterior pelvic tilt, and interrupts a sedentary lifestyle, with its accompanying stiff and/or weak muscles.

6. Find the Best Sleeping Positions

Finding a sleeping position that works for you can help you avoid placing unnecessary strains on your back or neck. Doctors tend to vary when recommending ideal sleep positions, so being guided by your comfort levels and using your own judgement are good accompaniment to his or her advice. About's Sleep Disorders editor, Florence Cardinal, has some great tips for sleep positioning.

7. Warm Up

For those who exercise, and that should be everyone, warm ups are a must. Warm up means 5-10 minutes of light aerobic activity just prior to the exercise session. The purpose of a warm up is to acclimate the muscles to a more intense activity level gradually enough to prevent injury, and therefore, pain. Recommendations by experts vary as to whether the warm up period should include stretching.

8. Cool Down

The cool down period after an excercise period must include stretching. During cool down, your muscles are still warm from exercising, and are very receptive to stretching. Stretching will be less painful during cool down, as well. Stretching relieves muscle tightness, which is one cause of back pain. Stretching also helps to balance the action of muscles, enhancing ideal alignment, and relieving joint strain.

9. Purposely Interupt Long Periods of Sitting

If you sit for long periods of time, force yourself to get up from your chair as much as your work environment will permit. Sitting loads the spine and compresses the disks, leading to disk problems. Slaving over a computer for long periods of time can also cause posture problems, such as kyphosis, and neck problems.

10. Try a Holistic Approach

Holistic bodywork techniques and systems such as massage therapy, yoga, Pilates, Feldenkrais, Chiropractic, or acupuncture are a great way to keep the structures of your spine tuned up for a lifetime!
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