Three Moves Not to Do to Prevent a Lower Back Injury

Good Habits May Protect You From Back Pain

For most people, young and old alike, going through the day means forgetting about spinal safety and good body mechanics. One very common scenario is that we sit a lot, and this leaves us unprepared for those times when we are called upon to exert ourselves physically.

When that happens, watch out, because the risk for a back or other joint injury is there.

We assume that if we're not in pain when we sit, lift things, or people, and/or reach for items located above our heads, for example, that we have nothing to worry about.

But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Preventing future discomfort or an injury has a lot to do with your day to day habits.

Every move you make, including not moving, contributes in some way to your physical condition. These contributions may only be slight, but they add up over time. If you take care by exercising regularly and employing good body mechanics, you are likely doing yourself a favor. If you don't, this routine lack of attention and effort may come back to haunt in the form of pain or an injury.

A 2016 study published in the journal Physiotherapy tested several groups of New Zealand school children to find out what works when trying to develop the exercise habit. The researchers' rationale was that low back pain in kids can predict the incidence of low back pain in adults. They did the study to find out which factors most influence daily adherence to a short exercise program. The exercise program study lasted 9 months and involved but four simple movements.

The sad fact is even with a battery of excellent strategies the researchers were able to offer to the kids, only half of the children did their exercises regularly over the full-time frame of the study.

But knowing what not to do can also protect you from an injury. To that end, here are three common moves to avoid, or at least manage well, if preserving your back health is your priority.


Bending Over at the Waist to Lift

Cute boy held my his mother picking up blossom branches in Spring
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Bending over at the waist to lift a heavy item or your child will likely put undue pressure on your low back. This pressure may lead to back strain, herniated disc, or, at the very least, unnecessary wear and tear on the joints of your spine.

Hips and legs are more powerful, and better equipped to deal with a load than the back. Instead of bending over from your waist, try squaring off in front of the object, and lowering yourself down to meet it by bending your hips and knees simultaneously.

Engaging your abdominal muscles as you lift may help protect your back as well.


Twisting Your Spine While Lifting

A man experiencing back pain at work. Safe lifting and ergonomics topic.
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Twisting your spine when you are lifting a load is a known risk factor for a disc herniation injury. This lifting habit may also lead to muscle strain or other problems.

The effect is amplified if you keep your knees straight, as this means you have to round your spine over to reach the item to be lifted. Twisting your spine suddenly is another way to amplify your injury risk.

The fix starts the same way: Get in the habit of squaring off in front of your object before lifting it, and bend knees and hips to lower yourself down.

If you need to move your heavy item to another spot, and you have to switch direction to do it, avoid the spinal twist movement. Instead, turn your whole body by taking a few steps in the direction you need to go. You can even do this when shoveling snow or digging a garden.

The key to ingraining this new way of working is to remain aware of how you do your movements.



Sitting can cause problems and back pain if not done properly
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Although sitting is not technically considered a movement, done improperly, it can be one of the worst activities for your back.

Sitting puts pressure on your discs and tightens up your hip joints. The pressure on your spine may wear out your discs or cause an injury. Tight hip joints may result in tight back muscles, reduced mobility in your spine, and pain.

If you sit at your job, be sure to get up and walk around when you can, and practice proper posture techniques. Doing back exercises at your desk is another way to counter the effects of sitting on your spine.

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