In the past, we wrote an article on back pain, but here we want to talk about how to make sure that your back will not get hurt so that you can continue to exercise, be mobile, and enjoy an excellent quality of life. When we decided to write this article, we started to do research on the subject, and three of the answers we found were the importance of posture, body movement, and weight regulation.
I can’t imagine that those of you who read this web sight do not know how much we stress health which includes controlling blood glucose levels and maintaining a healthy diet and weight as well as exercise and understanding the medications you take. Therefore, lets get moving here on this important topic.
If you have any questions, please e-mail us and we’ll try to answer. Do remember that before you begin to do any exercises, even the stretches we suggest in this article, you visit your physician and get clearance. Do go over when to exercise and when not to. Do acquaint yourself with blood glucose levels that preclude exercise as well as how to control low blood glucose levels. With all that information, get ready to have better posture and learn how to move through time and space without hurting your back. Finally, if you are over weight, do visit your physician and learn how to lose weight in a slow and determined way. It can be done and you can do it.
Let’s start with posture. Improving your posture can help solve all kinds of problems including your aching back, tight shoulders, strained neck and even headaches.
First, think about walking. If you have read these exercise articles, you may remember one about my mentor. Skilly, who just turned 80, and still exercises with us each day. She would routinely teach us to walk. She preached that age could destroy our posture and that would make us look even older. It must be true because if you met her you would bet that she is considerably younger than her chronological age.
So what did she teach us? We were told to forget the model slouch that we all learned in modeling classes or have seen on TV. We were taught to walk tall. We never wore shoes in class, but if you try this at home, take off any high heels and slip on flat shoes. Now lift your head and look ahead of you, not down. It’s amazing how hard it is not to look down.
Now walk, not too quickly, with your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles stacked. You should be relaxed with your knees slightly bent. Walk through your entire foot, pushing off with the back foot each time you take a step. You’ll be amazed at how much more power you get that way.
Our next lesson was how to stand. You’d think we all knew how to do that one, but to a person, we stood with one hip out and our weight on one leg. Skilly showed us how to shift weight if we were to stand for a long period of time without getting our back out of whack. She also cautioned about high heels. We have an article on that subject here on our site so you can go back and read it if you are still wearing those stilettos. One trick, I have learned, especially before my recent back surgery, is to take the pressure off of my back by putting one leg on a stool when I still could. I also learned to change positions often so that I didn’t tense up when pain started to return.
We all sit each day whether at a desk or just reading or watching the TV. When you slump in a chair you are putting a great strain on your back and neck. What to do? Why not get up and take a good walk around your office or get a drink of water and clear you head. The same is true if you are the type who sits rigidly working at a desk. There too you can strain muscles. Once again, learn how to listen to your body, reread our relaxation techniques, or take lessons so that you can let go of those tense muscles. Look from side to side, roll your shoulders, let your head fall to one side and lift it with you opposite hand, are just three of these exercises. Once you’re refreshed you can start to work again. Sit straight in a chair that supports your back. I know I have tried to cross my legs at the desk only to find my back yells at me to stop. Listen to your body and your back will thank you.
Now for my best suggestion about how to stop back pain and that is to remain flexible. To do this you will need to learn a routine of stretches. We also have an article on this subject here in the ‘burning calories’ articles so please go back and look at that one. If you have a good teacher in town, take a lesson or go to a physical therapist if you already have back pain. You can try to stretch in water if you need the buoyancy, or go to a Yoga class. There are many stretching exercises that you can try. One is just standing on your feet, weight equally distributed, and then extending your arms to each side, relaxing in-between each stretch. You can also stretch to the ceiling. This one feels great. If you have good balance, you can try stretching to the ceiling and rise to your toes. Make sure to tell your instructor where you tend to hurt. As we shared before, learning to roll your head and shoulders can be of benefit at work for short term relief.
Here are some lists of ways that professionals suggest to protect backs before and after injury. I can share that after my first back surgery years ago, I began doing sit-ups and pelvic tilts so that the muscles around my back became like a girdle. It certainly worked for years.
Don’t bend over to reach the object to be lifted. Stand close.
Spread your feet for balance. Squat, don’t bend over, keeping your back aligned.
Lift, using your stomach muscles, not back muscles, This is why professionals suggest ab work. Do not twist as you lift. Pivot your hips instead.
Think before you lift. This will help you remain safe.
Pushing and Pulling:
Push, don’t pull whenever you can. Don’t bend over too far. Remain close to the object you are moving. Use those stomach muscles, not your back. Never push or pull with a bent back.
Standing for a Long Time:
Change your position often. If you know you will be standing for a time, change shoes to low heels and stand on a soft surface. If you are standing at a podium or high table, bring it to a comfortable level.
If you are to sit for some time, use a chair that supports your lower back. You can purchase lumbar cushions at your pharmacy or medical supply store to help out if the chair does not support your back. Place your chair so that your knees are at the same height as your hips when you have your feet on the floor. Make sure your desk is at a comfortable height. This should be just a little above your waist. Sit close to the desk so that you don’t put pressure on your back. Never lean over. This is a good time to give your abs a workout. Slumping is not allowed. Take frequent breaks.
Use your stomach muscles. Change positions frequently. Never twist. What follows is a list of suggested exercises to protect your back. You may need instruction, but strengthening these muscle groups will make them your friends when it comes to back pain. Instruction will also make sure that you do these properly. How many times have we seen someone at the gym doing things in a way that we know will cause pain? The answer is daily.
Abbreviated Back Exercises:
- knee to chest
- pelvic tilt
- hip rolling
- pelvic lift
- curl ups
- tail wagging
- hip extensions
- hand-knee rocking
- back extension
- arm lifts
- knee push up
- trunk rotations
- full back releases
- upper back stretch
- side bending
This is not even near a full list. You will be surprised when you visit your gym or spa to see how many there are and how well you will feel after you begin a program. Protecting your back with these tips sure beats the alternative of pain killers, loss of mobility, or even surgery. Take care.