Oh my aching back! If you’re like 80 percent of American adults, you’ve probably suffered from, will suffer from, or maybe even currently suffer from lower back pain that keeps you out of work, affects your ability to do many daily chores, and/or interferes with your sleep. Here are self-care tips.
It’s spring! Some of us in the northern states may be coming off a season of shoveling snow, digging cars out of snowbanks, and (maybe) hauling firewood with a nagging ache in the back, just as the season for lawn and garden work, not to mention spring cleaning, begins.
Or for some of us, a stabbing pain seems to have come out of nowhere, as we bend over to pick something up from the floor or twisted around in a chair to switch on a light, and it hurts so much we can barely stand.
I once interviewed an orthopedic surgeon who said a near-majority of otherwise healthy patients he saw in his surgical practice suffered back pain or back injuries that could have been prevented with a few simple precautions. But he’d abandoned his surgical practice, frustrated that so few took his self-care advice, which involved learning to lift, stand, and sit correctly, as well as regularly doing a few stomach-and-back-strengthening exercises.
If your back hurts beyond what a day or two of rest and ice don’t seem to alleviate, see your doctor to rule out a serious medical problem. But if he/she suggests various prevention and self-care tips, save yourself a world of future hurt and comply.
Yes, I know you’ve heard it all before, but now’s the time to listen.
Sorry for the outlinks below; each is concise and useful, but contains too much text to summarize briefly in a blog post:
- Learn to lift correctly. Safe lifting techniques from the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration. (Scroll down to see the essential info.) ”One sure way to risk injuring the back is to lift heavy or bulky loads improperly or unassisted…. Never be afraid to ask for help with loads that you know you cannot lift safely…. The back can be damaged quickly but can take a long time to heal.”
- Do exercises to prevent lower back pain. Exercises to both stretch and strengthen the body’s core. Photos show different levels of difficulty that allow you to ease into each exercise.
- How to sit and stand when coping with lower back pain. Good advice for sitting, driving, and standing to reduce your recovery time when you’re already suffering from back pain.
- Shovel safely. The advice for shoveling snow safely applies as well to shoveling compost (or forking mulch hay, digging/shoveling soil for raised beds, etc. This garden safety flyer is really good! Addresses the knees as well as the back.)
- Relieve back pain with yoga. If you like yoga for exercise, Harvard Health has some good advice for performing the exercises in a way that protects and strengthens your back.
Need to go to the doctor? Understand how pain. Here is advice on how to talk to your doctor about pain.