Preventing low-back pain

Megan Bastin, Riverview Hospital Certified Athletic Trainer

back painMost people have experienced some type of low-back pain in their life. But did you know that, often times, these injuries and strains can be prevented?  Megan Bastin, a certified athletic trainer at Riverview Hospital explains that the lower back is designed for a greater range of motion than the upper back, putting it at greater risk for injury.

There are many ways you can hurt your back—playing sports, gardening, even doing household chores. Simply getting older can put you at an increased risk. Obviously you can’t control all of these factors, but Bastin says there are things you can do to keep your back in shape and avoid pain.

If you know you’re going to engage in physical activity such as sports, yard work or heavy chores, warm up with a few exercises that will allow your back to become more flexible and less prone to injury. It’s important to do various movements that you may do during exercise or normal daily activities, such as:

  • Side bends that warm up the muscles around your spine and encourage range of motion.
  • Trunk rotations that prepare the back muscles for movement requiring spinal twisting or turning.
  • Prone (lying flat on the floor) trunk extensions that warm up the lower back muscles. They build strength, while helping to prevent lower back injury during exercise.

Bastin suggests these tips that can be implemented everyday:

  • Don’t slouch when you sit. If you’re at a desk all day, sit with your lower back curved naturally forward and stretch your back often throughout the day.
  • Use proper lifting techniques like bending at the knees and pivoting instead of twisting. Think about how you’re going to lift something and whether you need help.
  • Stay healthy and lose any extra weight. Extra weight, especially in the mid-section, adds stress to your back.
  • Build your core strength. Exercises that strengthen your mid-section help support your back, giving you more stability and better posture.

If you’ve injured your low back due to an overused muscle or strain, Bastin suggests trying some of these techniques at home to help ease your pain before deciding to see your doctor:

  • Rest and stay off your feet for 24-48 hour
Apply ice for 20 minutes every hour for the first 24 hours after an injury.
  • Try over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or Motrin to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Once your back is feeling better, gently begin doing some stretching exercises. As your back pain improves, add in some strength exercises for your core.

If none of these techniques helps and your low-back pain does not improve within a few days, then Bastin says it’s time to see your doctor. For more information on orthopedic and sports medicine services at Riverview Hospital, visit our website.