Prevent Back Injuries

Back pain is second only to the common cold on the list of reasons Americans go to the doctor. Sprains and strains to the back are preventable. Unfortunately, most people don't worry about their back until it's already hurting them. It's important to start treating your back properly right away. Take the following steps to protect your back.

Maintain proper posture. Having the correct posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping is an important part of keeping you back pain free. While sitting, make sure your lower back gets sufficient support. If you sit for long periods of time, get up and walk around about every hour, trying a few simple stretching exercises. If you stand all day, every once in a while, bend over and touch your toes, bending at the knees. Sleeping on you stomach places too much stress on your back, but if you must, be sure to place a small pillow underneath your abdomen. Buy a mattress with good back support that's also comfortable.
Lift properly. Improper lifting of heavy objects causes many back injuries. If you must lift a heavy object, take some time to prepare. When lifting or moving a load:
Always bend at the knees - never at the waist
Keep the object close to your body
Don't twist your body
Avoid lifting over your head or over an obstruction
Get a good grip on the object. Clean and dry surfaces are easier to handle than wet and greasy ones.
If possible, divide a heavy load into several smaller ones
When lifting below chest level, keep your lower back curve locked in position. When lifting above chest level, tighten your abdomen to place less of the load on your spine.
When moving the object, push it instead of pulling it
Make sure you're footing is secure. Do not lift objects that obscure vision and footing
Lift smoothly and slowly. Do not jerk the load
Whenever possible, use a cart or dolly to carry the object
If the load is too heavy, ask for help
If possible, divide a heavy load into several smaller ones
Stretch. Simple stretches throughout the day can help make your back more flexible and strong. Try to do these every hour, holding each for about five seconds.
While standing, place your hands on your lower back and lean backward, without tipping your head backward
Stretch your hamstrings - those muscles in the back of your thigh that help keep your back mobile. While sitting or standing and leaning against something, bend one leg up, hold your thigh and straighten the leg
While sitting, bend your chest down to your thighs to stretch the muscles and unload the joints at the base of the spine
Exercise. Exercising back muscles can strengthen and protect the muscles, helping to prevent injuries. Of particular importance are the abdominal muscles.
Try walking briskly for about 30 minutes a day, four times a week
Swimming is a great way to strengthen the abdominal muscles and leg muscles. It also takes the pressure of gravity off of your back
Various at-home abdominal exercises can also help keep your back strong. You can ask your doctor or qualified gym instructor to show you some special back strengthening exercises.