Here are 20 tips for maintaining a healthy back:
1. Know your limits. Don’t lift heavy objects. Ask for help.
2. Stop and think. When lifting and carrying objects, keep feet apart for balance, bend knees to lower yourself, and lift objects close to your body. Remember to let your legs do the lifting, not your back.
3. Pivot. Your shoulders, feet and hips should face forward at all times when you are lifting or carrying. Pivot with your feet — don’t twist!
4. Push instead of pull. Whenever you can, push instead of pull objects. You have twice as much power and less chance of injury.
5. Balance. Your lower back and stomach muscles help to form good posture. Therefore keep them equally strong.
6. Sitting. Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Change positions and walk around often.
7. Standing. Vary your positions, keeping knees slightly bent. Alternate feet, resting one foot on a higher surface when you stand for long periods of time.
8. Sleeping. A firm mattress provides the best support for your back. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
9. Driving. Move the car seat forward and sit with your knees higher than your hips. Be sure your back is fully supported — a small pillow or rolled towel works best.
10. Stay active. Participate in an active lifestyle to improve your tolerance to back pain and stress.
11. Strengthen and stretch. A regular exercise program will strengthen key muscle groups and increase your flexibility. A strong, flexible back will reduce your risk of injury.
12. Stomach muscles. Eighty percent of all back problems are the result of weak stomach muscles. Don’t neglect them. A strong stomach provides a “brace” that keeps your back stable.
13. Before you begin. Consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program, especially if you already have a back problem.
14. Caution. When you feel back pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in your legs — STOP your activity!
15. Shoes. Avoid high heels. Focus on comfort and support, not price savings or fashion.
16. Relax. Release all tension from your back muscles. Recognize and feel your muscles in their relaxed state. Deep breathing, massage and stretching will help you relax.
17. Weight control. Maintain recommended body weight. Excess weight increases the stress on your lower back.
18. Good posture. It starts in the lower back. Use your stomach muscles to give you a lift. Stand and sit tall with your shoulders in line with your hips to avoid headaches, neck and upper back pain.
19. Common sense. Taking care of your back is mostly a matter of awareness, prevention and good habits.
20. Still need help? For additional information, ask your physician.