How to Avoid Back Pain and Injury
By Joe Rivera
As a trainer in Los Angeles in my forties, I have first-hand knowledge and experience with the subject of this article. Almost everyone I know has at one time or another either injured their back or experienced back pain or discomfort. In fact, I once strained my lower back during a workout because I was distracted as I attempted to perform an exercise, was not fully present and was not engaging my abdominal muscles. It was this very strain and the four days of constant icing, stretching, massaging and adjusting in order to heal myself that inspired me to explore this topic.
There are many variables that contribute to back pain and/or injury. It can be genetic, stress-related, a result of incorrect or heavy lifting, bad posture, weak abdominal muscles, a sedentary lifestyle, excess weight, a bad mattress, tripping on a curb…the list goes on. While millions of people suffer from back pain, for many, that pain is avoidable or at the very least can be minimized.
Let’s explore a few ways to help you avoid injury and minimize back pain.
Things You’ll Need:
Sports ointment or product such as Icy Hot
Bend backwards a few minutes a day to help restore balance, alignment and force you to strengthen the opposing muscle groups in your lower back, hips and hamstrings. As we get older, the effects of gravity start to take a toll. In truth, most of our movement when it comes to our spine is forward flexion, otherwise known as folding your trunk forward. Think about this-when was the last time you bent backwards to pick something up off the ground? Also, every day you are involved in some type of forward bend, whether it be driving your car, sitting at your computer (you are probably folding forward right now as you read this) or even riding your bike. This is why it is important to counteract the effects of your forward ways by bending in the opposite direction.
Stretch properly; this is key to avoiding back pain and injury. Proper stretching entails exercising your hamstring, upper back, glutes, hip flexors, quadraceps and trapezius muscles.
Try to keep your hips in a neutral position. This is the position that maintains your body’s structural integrity. Simply be aware of how you stand and carry yourself throughout the day, making sure that your feet are facing straight forward as opposed to turning out.
Exercise regularly to help strengthen all of your muscles, maintain a proper weight and reduce stress, which can all be related to back pain. Of course, dedicating time to strengthening your core (the muscle groups that are included in the trunk of your body) should be a priority. Modes of exercise such as yoga and pilates can be helpful when taken with a qualified instructor.
Do your best to be mindful whenever you are lifting anything. Bend your knees when necessary and use your leg muscles to assist when you lift. Also be sure to engage your abdominal muscles.
Get a regular massage. It can do wonders for stress reduction and loosening of key muscles groups that when tense can eventually lead to pain or injury.
Visit a chiropractor on occasion to have your spine adjusted or realigned, which can also be quite helpful in preventing back pain or injury.
Get the best mattress you can afford. Think about this; you spend about a third of your life sleeping because that is the time that your body needs to rest, restore and regenerate. It makes sense to spend that time optimally on a mattress that is supportive and comfortable.