Back Pain

Did you know that low back pain is one of the most common reasons for visiting a doctor?  Most Canadians will experience low back pain at some point in their lives and the cost to the health care system and the economy is staggering.

Five things you need to know to prevent back pain

The back is a complex structure made up of bones, muscles, nerves and other “soft tissues”. Because you rely on this structure for almost every move you make, it is very important to keep your back healthy.

Did you know that 80% of Canadians will experience at least one bout of significant back pain in their lifetimes? The prevalence of back pain makes this one of the most common reasons for health care visits and missed work. The associated health care costs and the costs of lost productivity are staggering.

On the bright side, most back pain can be prevented before it ever occurs. Here are five simple ways to prevent back pain before it starts:

1. Aerobic Exercise

Regular low-impact aerobic activities such as walking and swimming can increase your strength and endurance and allow the muscles of your back to function better.

2. Improve Strength & Flexibility

Strengthening the muscles of the abdomen and the back (core strengthening exercises) will help support your back like a natural brace. Improving your flexibility in the hips and upper legs aligns the pelvic bones to prevent or improve back pain.

3. Quit Smoking

Smokers have diminished oxygen levels in their spinal tissues, which can hinder healing.

4. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts an extra strain on your back muscles. If you’re overweight, trimming down can prevent back pain.

5. Use Proper Body Mechanics

Use good posture while standing and sitting (including while driving and working at the computer). Use proper lifting techniques; keep your back straight up and down and lift with your knees. Hold loads close to the body and avoid lifting and twisting at the same time. Proper body mechanics while sleeping is often overlooked; if you wake up stiff and sore in the morning consider purchasing a new mattress. Look for mattress with good support; an extra firm mattress is not necessary.

If back pain is limiting your ability to complete day-to-day activities, see your physiotherapist or family doctor to discuss treatment options.

Exercise Is Important

For most people being in good physical condition or “in shape” is the best back pain prevention.  Regular aerobic exercise and regular strengthening of the spine stabilizing core muscles plus flexibility training are critical for maintaining a healthy and pain free back.

What Kind of Exercises Are Best?

The way to achieve and maintain stability of the spine is to:

  • Exercise the spine’s major stabilizers (back extensors and abdominals)
  • Exercise these muscles while also sparing the back

The best exercises are the ones that have been hand select for you by an appropriate health professional such as a Physio In Motion therapist. A trained health and rehabilitation professional will assess your needs and recommend exercises to meet your needs.