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Why Does My Back Always Hurt?

4 Things to Do Every Day to Reduce Low Back Pain

Peer Reviewed

The statement that low back injuries tend to be difficult to cure can be a myth in many cases. By utilizing a team approach, the physician, the physical therapist, and the patient are the key players when choosing an appropriate treatment plan of care. With a physician's written prescription for physical therapy, as well as recommendations from a registered physical therapist, we can help guide our patients and pave a pathway to recovery from their back disorders.

A low back (lumbar spine) disorder may develop over a period of time or a patient may actually have a sudden onset of back pain. There may be one specific incident or known injury such as a fall, motor vehicle accident, direct trauma, or the back injury may be the cumulative result of one or all of the following:

  • Poor posture
  • Improper body mechanics
  • Stressful living situations and poor working habits
  • Limited flexibility and decreased strength

Take a look at that list and think:  Why is it that my back always hurts?  Am I "guilty" of poor posture or improper body mechanics?  Do I need to work on my flexibility or reduce stress?

Read on for tips on how to conquer each of these and perhaps reduce your lower back pain.

Poor Posture

Poor posture is one of the leading causes of back pain. You can help prevent or even help cure a back disorder by trying to improve your postural awareness and by making changes in your activities of daily living.

Listed below are some useful tips to remember:

  1. Correct sitting and standing postures are one and the same: head and shoulders erect and balanced, stand up straight and look straight ahead.
  2. Do not sit or stand for long periods of time: take periodic rest breaks and change positions as needed.
  3. Always position yourself close to your work and work at a comfortable height.
  4. Always practice good posture and proper body mechanics.  (See more about body mechanics below.)

Faulty Body Mechanics

Faulty body mechanics involves improper lifting techniques.  Below are some tips on how to lift safely.

  1. You must maintain proper posture (follow the tips above) and keep objects close to the body.
  2. You must use the strong muscles of the lower extremities to perform the lift instead of bending at the waist and using the lower back.
  3. Do not twist while lifting and obtain assistance if needed.

Stressful Living Conditions and Poor Work Habits

This may exacerbate the symptoms of low back pain and may even create a flare-up of pain following periods of increased tension.  Stress does affect your spine and can lead to pain, so here are some ways to reduce stress in your life:

  1. Utilizing stress management is an important tool to help improve emotional factors in your life.
  2. You may cope better by understanding the nature of yourinjury and taking the appropriate steps necessary to eliminate back pain and provide for a healthy back.
  3. Take 5 minutes to sit quietly when you get home from work.
  4. Journal.
  5. Talk to a close friend.
  6. Do an activity you enjoy (read a book, do the crossword, sew, do a home improvement project, etc.).

Exercise

Exercising aerobically 3 to 5 times weekly and maintaining good strength and flexibility are the keys to having a strong and healthy back. Generally, people in poor physical condition tend to be more vulnerable to back injuries than those who maintain a high level of physical fitness. One of the most important components of good health is to maintain a daily exercise program.

Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about recommendations for starting a daily exercise program that will strengthen your low back and keep you in good shape.

Small Changes Can Reduce Low Back Pain

Back problems can be prevented most of the time. It is certainly easier to prevent a back injury by taking the appropriate measures, and small changes can reduce low back pain.  Work every day to have good posture, watch how you lift things, take time to de-stress, and take good care of your body.  These small steps can help you take control of your lower back pain.

Updated on: 02/01/13
Alan Hedge, PhD, CPE
Occupational back injuries among sedentary workers can be associated with poor postures, such as sitting with the body hunched forwards, but erect sitting doesn't necessarily help reduce injury risks. Erect sitting like erect standing requires considerable muscle effort and places a higher load on the lumbar spine. It's impossible to maintain erect sitting for any duration of time without the onset of fatigue. However, sitting at a slight recline (100-110 degrees) can be sustained and it does substantially alleviate compressive forces on the lumbar spine and requires much less muscle effort. Current ergonomic thinking encourages people to sit back in their chairs, using the chair back to help to support their torso, and it encourages people to move their back through a range of postures while seated to create dynamic sitting. It's important that the ergonomic chair can support and encourage this dynamic sitting.
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