Back Health & Wellness

Lower Your Risk For Back Pain With Prevention

The concept of prevention does not have a great track record, and this dismal situation is true not only for back pain but for most health issues. It’s really quite simple. Healthy people lack motivation to participate in preventive activities. They wait until they have their back attack (or other illness) and then try to prevent a recurrence.

Once you have had one back attack, you are at greater risk of having another within a year. Some studies suggest this is true for as many as 50 percent of back pain sufferers. However, the second attack is usually milder than the first. The second attack occurs because people forget the lessons learned from the first back pain episode. They go back to their old habits and lift objects from awkward positions, stretch too far, or sit too long.

Do not become a repeat back offender. Remember what caused your first back attack. Practice good body mechanics, rest when appropriate, and exercise at the correct time of the day (generally later in the day). If you follow these simple rules, a second attack of pain is less likely. Here are my guidelines for avoiding back problems—and preventing them from recurring.

Lifestyle Changes

Maintain Fitness
When you are physically fit you are at less risk for developing low back pain. We can define fitness in a number of ways. For example, cardiovascular fitness is the ability to climb stairs or run without getting short of breath. In a study of fire fighters, those in good physical condition had significantly decreased risk of back pain compared to those in poor physical condition.

Strong back muscles represent another type of fitness. Compared to other muscles in the body, the muscles in the back are generally weak; if we increase strength in these muscles, we can decrease our risk of developing low back pain. While this is important for everyone, it is essential for those whose jobs require heavy lifting and physical labor. Exercises that strengthen the muscles in the front (abdominal flexors) and in the back (back extensors) can decrease your risk of injury if you lift heavy objects or twist and bend frequently while at work.

Do your general fitness exercises every other day. The day off allows your body to revitalize muscles fatigued by the exercise. Engage in an exercise program vigorous enough to stimulate about thirty minutes of perspiration. “Breaking a sweat” means you have used enough calories to generate heat, which is a sympathetic nervous system response that benefits the part of the nervous system that inhibits pain. These types of exercise also improve circulation, flexibility, and muscle tone.

Maintain a Good Body Weight

Obesity in itself is not a risk factor for the development of low back pain, but it prevents you from doing exercises properly and comfortably. If obesity results in a sedentary lifestyle, then all the risks associated with inactivity remain present. For most people, the body mass index (BMI) is a good measure for whether or not you are overweight. For example, if you are six feet tall and weigh 200 pounds, your BMI would be 27, which is a bit high. You would do better at a weight of 170 or 180. If you are five-foot-five and weigh 150 pounds, you would have a BMI of 25. Guidelines from the National Institutes of Health define overweight as a BMI greater than 25. Obesity starts at a BMI of 30.