By Dr.Gurudip Das
Consultant spine surgeon,Bhubaneswar
As you move through life, your back is at risk for injury and pain. Some of these risk factors cannot be changed. For instance, your age impacts the back quite a bit, and this is, unfortunately, not something you can modify. Risk factors like these have to be handled carefully and addressed when they lead to back problems.When the discs in your back lose water due to age, sometimes they rupture. Ruptures or slippage of the disc are treated with supportive measures like medications, physiotherapy and very rarely surgery.
Fortunately, some risk factors that lead to back pain are ones that you can change. Although you can’t fight Mother Nature, you can make changes in your behaviors that will protect your back from harm. These include posture, ergonomics, body weight, exercise and proper lifting. By assuring that these modifiable risk factors are mitigated, you stand a good chance of protecting yourself from most back pain problems.
Maintaining proper posture is a great way to avoid lower back pain . Most posture exercises focus on the standing posture, but the sitting posture can be just as important. When you stand, it is helpful to imagine a string coming out of the top of your head and pulling your spine straight up. You should gently contract the abdominal muscles to keep the lower spine in alignment. By reminding yourself to assume this posture often, you will avoid the pain that comes from slouching and stooping.
Sitting is one position where posture is very important. An average individual most probably spends more than one third of his time in a day sitting. You should sit upright with your back supported, and gently contract your abdominals. Stooping forward too much while sitting can cause back pain. Concentrate on sitting straight in the chair with your shoulder blades touching the back rest and your feet flat on the floor. Again, while sitting erect , you must keep changing your posture every 1 hour. Those who work for long shifts in office , must take small breaks of 5 mins every 90 minutes to stretch themselves and relax their back.
You may think that ergonomics is only for the office space, but you would be missing out on a great deal of opportunities to protect your back. While it is important to have your back supported in a quality office chair, you should also consider ergonomics while driving your car as well. The steering wheel should be no more than 10 inches from your breastbone, and you should have a lumbar support to keep the natural curve in your back.
Many people use computers at home , and you should consider good ergonomic practices here as well. For instance, many people who work on a laptop sit hunched over the keyboard. Like your computer at work, the keyboard should be at elbow height, and you should sit in a straight backed chair. The screen of your computer should be within 30 degrees of your eye vision line when you sit comfortably straight . If its either too low or high ,it puts strain on your back as well neck muscles.The same is true while using a smart phone
Your weight can have a profound impact on your back . Just carrying 10 to 20 extra pounds can put stress on the muscles and ligaments of the spine. When weight stresses the back, it leads to degenerative changes earlier in life, osteoarthritis of the facet joints of the back, and risk for slippage of intervertebral disc in your spine . For this reason, it is vitally important to keep your weight within the limits recommended for your height and age. You can consult your nearby friendly doctor for finding out the ideal weight for your sex , age and height.
If you are overweight, you can improve your back pain by losing weight. Weight reduction is easily achieved by doing regular aerobic exercise along with dietary modification.Try to do aerobic exercises for 30 minutes per day, at least three days per week. Aerobic exercise can be as simple as walking, but dancing, swimming, and running can also help you to lose weight. Of course, you should aim to restrict your total calorie intake to 2500kcal (for men) / 2000 kcal (for females) . Keep track of your food intake, and see where you can avoid some unnecessary extra calories off to facilitate your weight loss
In addition to aerobic exercise , performing exercises that are specific to the back can help you avoid back pain. For instance, strengthening the abdominal muscles or performing stretches for the back, hamstrings, and hips can help to protect your back from injury. You should always stretch before gym workouts or sporting activities to loosen up the muscles of the back.
Weight training, yoga, and Pilates are great ways to exercise your back and have some fun. These exercises aren’t specifically for weight loss but they aim to increase the flexibility and strength of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons supporting the back. This means you are less likely to encounter strains and sprains, and they can protect the back from degenerative changes and ruptured discs.
Finally, many back problems are caused by lifting weights . If you could modify this aspect of your behaviour, you would most likely avoid a great deal of the back problems that plague patients.
When lifting heavy objects, it is important to remember that you need to lift with your knees. Keep your back straight, and avoid bending at the waist to retrieve an item. You should pull the weight as close to you as possible and push upward with your legs.
You should also tighten your abdominal muscles while lifting weights. This can be accomplished by gently pulling your stomach muscles inward. A back brace can sometimes help to keep the abdominals tight for lifting, but they cannot help if you choose to lift with your back. Another thing you must always remember is, even if you follow the proper technique , lifting weights that are too heavy is bound to affect your back adversely
If you have some or all of these risk factors for back pain,don’t hesitate to take help from an qualified orthopaedic or spine specialist . They can assist you with finding ways to lose weight, strengthen your back, and treating the pain in addition to decreasing the risk factors.
You can send in your queries to [email protected] . For consultations you can contact me on 9583752395 or meet me at Ayush Hospital / KAR clinic , Bhubaneswar.
The author is a consultant orthopaedic spine surgeon at Ayush hospital and KAR clinic , Bhubaneswar.