Back Pain
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Back Pain

Back pain may be rooted in the way you perform everyday activities. Here are the dos and don'ts for good back health.

Lifting Heavy Objects

Do

  • Keep the object close to you by positioning it between your legs before lifting.
  • Keep a wide base of support by spreading your legs at least a couple of feet apart, and by keeping one foot in front of the other.

Don't

  • Bend from your back when lifting. Instead, bend from your knees and hips, keeping your back upright at all times. If the object is too heavy, get help.

Sitting at a Computer

Do

  • Sit with your shoulders slightly behind your hips. Position your knees slightly below your hips to form a 100-degree angle.
  • Take frequent breaks from sitting during the day.
  • Get properly situated at your desk first, then bring the mouse and keyboard forward.
  • Rest your wrists on a pad while typing. Your lower arms should be nearly horizontal.
  • Roll up a towel to about the size of your forearm and place it between your chair and the small of your back.

Don't

  • Allow only your lower back to touch the back of the chair. Your entire back should be in contact with it.
  • Slouch. Hunching over puts stress on your back.
  • Allow your feet to dangle. Lower the seat so that your entire foot touches the ground, or use a foot rest.
  • Sit for more than 30 minutes at a time without a break. Try standing up during phone calls or when speaking with a colleague. Or take a five-minute walk.

Sleeping

Do

  • Buy a new mattress every seven to 10 years. Flip your mattress regularly to keep the wear even. When testing, pick one that is firm enough to support you, but not too hard.
  • Use a non-foam pillow thick enough to support your neck when you lie down.

Don't

  • Sleep on your stomach, which puts too much pressure on your back. Sleep on your back instead. If that's uncomfortable, sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs to reduce pressure on your back and hips.

Carrying Bags

Do

  • Carry your bag on both shoulders. If you don't want to use a backpack, use a bag with a long shoulder strap that you can sling across your chest.
  • Get help if you're carrying a heavy suitcase. Or use a suitcase with wheels.

Don't

  • Carry a heavy purse. Put only essential items inside and leave the rest at home or in your car.
  • Bend at a unnatural angle when lifting a suitcase or heavy bag. Make sure it is directly in front of you.

Being Overweight

Do

  • Exercise three or four times a week and stay in shape even if you're overweight. Inactivity is a big factor in back problems. Active people who carry extra pounds have fewer back problems than those who don't work out.

Don't

  • Assume that your back pain will go away if you lose weight. Often, patients need physical therapy or medication to eliminate the discomfort. However, losing weight will likely keep the problem from getting worse. --Dorie Edelstein

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