According to a recent study by The Work Foundation1, back and neck pain, as well as repetitive strain-type conditions, account for nearly half of all absences from work and 60% of work incapacity in the European Union. There are an estimated 100 million Europeans suffering with enough pain that it requires medical treatment and keeps them from work.
In Canada, an estimated four out of five adults will experience at least one episode of back pain at some time in their lives2, and in the US where experts estimate that as much as 80% of the population will have to deal with back pain at some point.3
There are many reasons why someone may be experiencing back pain. Often the cause is never found, but factors that contribute to those aches and pains can include4:
- poor muscle tone in the back and abdominal muscles
- leading a sedentary lifestyle
- poor posture
- improper or heavy lifting
- chronic stress
Of course back pain can also be the result of diseases of the internal organs, such as kidney stones, kidney infections and blood clots or bone loss, so if you’re troubled by persistent, unexplained back pain it makes sense to see your doctor to try to determine the root cause and to rule out serious illness.5
Back pain prevention
Your doctor may have suggestions for back pain treatment and relief based on your age and any underlying medical conditions you may have. But if you are otherwise healthy and strong, looking for ways to prevent back pain before it starts is a wise plan.
The Mayo Clinic6 has the following tips for keeping your back in tip-top, pain-free condition:
Stay active. Regular, low-impact aerobic exercise, especially walking and swimming, can increase you back’s strength and help your back muscles function better. Always check with your doctor to make sure that the exercise you’re doing is correct and effective for you.
Improve your core strength. Talk with a doctor or a physical therapist about what kind of abdominal and back exercises will safely help to increase your core strength. Doing so conditions these muscles so they act as a natural corset for your back. Click here for examples of these types of exercises.
Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight can put a strain on your back; so if you’re carrying some extra pounds, consider trying to lose a few so that your back doesn’t have to work quite so hard. Once again, your doctor can help you with a healthy weight loss plan that includes proper nutrition and safe exercises.
Check your posture. When you’re sitting, make sure you have proper back support so that your spine maintains its natural curve. Put a pillow or rolled-up towel behind your lower back, and keep your knees and hips level. Remember to change positions at least every half hour. When you’re standing for long periods of time, put one foot up on a low footstool to help ease the load on your lower back. Switch feet regularly.
Lift with your legs. Try to avoid lifting heavy items, but if you have to, always make sure your legs are doing the bulk of the work, not your back. Bend at the knees, keep your back straight, and avoid twisting. Check out this video from Doctor Jo for proper heavy lifting techniques.
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