It doesn't take much. Maybe you picked up your child, lugged the trash bag to
the curb or loaded heavy groceries into the car. Back pain – the most common
medical disorder in modern society – is often triggered by simple, daily
activities like these. Statistics indicate that two-thirds of all Canadians will
experience at least one episode of back pain in their lifetime.
How your back works
You may not realize it but you use your back constantly – to bend, twist, stand,
even to lie down. This steady pattern of wear and tear makes the back extremely
vulnerable to stress, strain and fatigue. All the more reason to keep your back
healthy – after all, you've only got one!
Your back is an ingenious structure, brilliantly engineered to support your
upper body and give it flexibility. Your spinal column is made up of 24 moveable
bones, called vertebra, which are separated by tough cushions of cartilage,
called discs. The entire structure is supported by muscles and ligaments that
help keep your back straight and strong.
Warning signs of back problems
|•||back or leg pain when coughing or
|•||stiffness in the morning that decreases
when you move around
|•||inability to turn or bend to each side
|•||difficulty standing up after sitting
for any period of time
|•||pain in your hip, buttock, thigh, knee
|•||leg pain with tingling, numbness and/or
|•||pain that prevents you from sleeping
The usual suspects
Some of the common causes of back pain include:
|•||standing or sitting for long periods
|•||sitting for long periods in poorly
designed chairs or chairs without proper back support
|•||sitting without properly supporting
|•||working in a cramped position or
hunched over a work station
|•||pushing or pulling objects that are
heavy or awkward
|•||repeated stretching or reaching
|•||exposing your back to whole body
vibrations, such as driving a truck, snowmobile, ride-on mower, etc.
|•||stress can cause muscle tension and
tightness that can lead to back pain
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Protecting your back
Research indicates that 80% of all back pain is the direct result of poor
physical fitness and lack of exercise. Most back pain is caused by overusing or
overstretching the muscles and ligaments that support the spine. Sudden,
unexpected movements can also cause pain by straining your back joints or
injuring a disc.
Maintaining good posture when you stand, sit and
lie down is one of the easiest ways to keep your back healthy and pain-free.
It’s also important to keep your trunk and abdominal muscles strong and flexible
to protect your back from injury. A regular routine of
strengthening exercises and
stretching will go a long way towards improving your overall strength and
Excess weight, especially in the abdominal area, is another common cause of back
pain. The strain of supporting those extra pounds puts steady pressure on the
muscles of the back. Visit Eat
smart and learn more about a healthy diet and good nutrition. A few dietary
changes may save you years of aches and pains!
Lifting is one of the most common causes of back injury. Whether you're lifting
your baby out of a crib, putting groceries into the trunk or moving a stack of
art supplies, you should always follow safe lifting
techniques to protect your back from unnecessary strain.
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Here are some great ideas to help keep your back healthy:
|•||If your neck is stiff and sore, your
purse or briefcase could be the culprit. Take out everything you don’t
really need and lighten your load a little.
|•||A purse with a strap that goes across
one shoulder helps balance the weight and leaves your hands free.
|•||Use a wheeled briefcase for heavier
|•||Alternate heavy tasks with easier tasks
– it reduces the stress on your joints and allows your muscles to rest.
|•||Use helpful devices, such as luggage
carts, grocery carts and reaching tools, such as stools or ladders, to make
daily tasks easier.
|•||Wear proper walking shoes that support
your feet and help you maintain good posture.
|•||Make sure you stretch before and after
exercising or doing heavy work to avoid injury or strain.
|•||Apply ice to ease aching muscles and
stiff joints, then relax with a hot shower.
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