Get rid of lower back pain

November 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Tired of lower back pain? Fitness expert and KGO Radio host Joanie Greggains and the founder and director of the Center for Sports Medicine at St. Francis Memorial Hospital, Dr. James Garrick, share some exercises and tips to help you feel better.

Everyday Activities: Caring for Your Back Throughout the Day

The key to avoiding back pain is to prevent it. Staying in good physical condition with back strengthening exercises as part of your routine may help. Learning how to lift correctly and maintaining good posture also will be helpful. The way you do normal, everyday activities could determine whether you aggravate your back or keep it pain-free.

Proper Posture: The Key to Safe Movement

Your spine bears your weight throughout the day. This is true whether you're sleeping, standing, or bending. Certain positions strain your spine more than others. But by maintaining proper posture in all positions, you can reduce the stress on your spine.

Back Safety: Basics of Good Posture

Good posture protects you from injury. It also increases your comfort. Aim for good posture throughout the day.

Check Your Posture

The human body works best when it is properly aligned. To improve your standing posture, follow these steps:

· Take a moment to close your eyes and feel your body. Then breathe deeply and relax your shoulders, hips, and knees.

· Now, from the very top of your head, lift up just a bit. Think of a line linking your ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles. Adjust your body to follow the line. You may need to relax your hips and tuck your buttocks under a bit.

· Next, take a look at yourself in a mirror. Is one ear, shoulder, hip higher than the other? They should be level.

Standing Tall

To maintain good posture while standing for long periods, keep your hands at your sides and your abdomen drawn in as if you're trying to flatten your stomach. Avoid tilting your pelvis, allowing your belly to fall forward. Doing so increases the natural curvature of your back, which can lead to back pain.

Working

When standing for a long time, put one foot on a footrest. This may help ease strain on your back. The footrest should be about 5-8 inches high.

Sitting Safely

Sitting can strain your back if you don't do it right. Learn the right moves to protect your back.

Follow these steps to sit down. Reverse them to get back up.

  • Make sure the chair is behind you.
  • Place one foot slightly behind the other.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles. Bend forward from the hips, keeping your back straight.
  • Hold the armrests or sides of the seat for support.
  • Bend your knees. Use your leg muscles to lower yourself onto the seat.
  • Scoot back in the seat until you are comfortable.

Sitting

  • Keep your feet flat. Don't cross your legs.
  • A low footrest (no higher than 8 inches) may help.
  • A support behind your lower back or between your shoulder blades can help make you more comfortable.
  • When setting for long periods, change your position from time to time. Also, get up every half hour and move around.

Bending

Bending can strain or even injure your back. Follow the tips below to move safely and protect your back as you perform everyday activities.

Bending Over

  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Move your whole body as one unit.
  • Bend at your hips and knees, not at your waist.
  • Flatten your stomach and tighten your leg muscles.
  • To keep your spine straight, let your buttocks move out behind you. Don't try to tuck them under.
  • If you need to, place one hand on a sturdy object for support.

Bending to the Floor

  • Lower yourself to one knee. If you can, rest one hand on a sturdy object to help lower yourself.
  • Rest one arm on your raised knee.
  • Don't bend at the waist.
  • Do not hunch your back or neck to reach to the floor. Instead, bend more at your hips and knees to get closer.

Leaning

When brushing teeth, shaving, or putting on makeup be careful not to lean too far forward, putting strain on your back. Instead, while standing at the sink, bend your knees and hips. Keep your back in a neutral position.

Reaching

Reaching above your shoulders can strain your back. Use a stool or a stepladder to get closer and test the weight of the load by pushing up on a corner before lifting. If it's too heavy, ask for help.

Lifting

Whether you lift every day or occasionally, knowing how to do it properly (especially if you're out of shape or overweight) can reduce your chance of hurting your back.

To lift correctly: Always be sure to bend your knees, keep your back straight and tighten your abdominal muscles when lifting. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips to avoid twisting. Hold the weight close to your body. Don't lift anything that's too heavy without assistance.

Driving

  • Move the car seat forward enough so your knees and hips are at the same level and you don't have to stretch your legs to reach the pedals.
  • Sit in an upright position; don't recline the back of your seat.
  • On long drives, take frequent rest stops so you can get out and stretch.

About Joanie Greggains:
Joanie Greggains is one of America's favorite health and exercise personalities. Her long-running TV Exercise Show, Morning Stretch, and her popular #1 Talk-Radio show, The Joanie Greggains Show averaging 250,000 listeners each Saturday on KGO Radio 810 AM in San Francisco, CA (the #1 Talk Radio Station in the country) have made her a familiar, popular, and respected authority in the Health and Fitness Field. Joanie has written three books: Total Body Shape Up, Fit Happens and the Fat Flush Fitness Plan. Joanie has produced choreographed and starred in 15 Exercise Videos which have resulted in sales of over $16 million, earning her 9 Gold and 6 Platinum Videocassette Awards. She also earned 2 Gold Records for sales of over one million audio Exercise Workouts.

Joanie is a popular guest speaker who participates in many health events throughout the year. As a former secondary school teacher, Joanie believes in the value of education. Her mission is to provide her audience with the tools and resources they need to improve their health and vitality with well-informed choices.

Links:

About Dr. James G. Garrick, M.D.
Dr. Garrick, orthopedic surgeon, is the founder and Director of the Center for Sports Medicine in San Francisco, California. The first hospital-based, multi-specialty clinic in the United States, the Center for Sports Medicine deals with athletic injuries and currently sees in excess of 40,000 patient visits per year. The Center additional locations in San Francisco, Corte Madera, and Walnut Creek, CA. Dr. Garrick also founded the Sports Medicine Division at the University of Washington, the first facility of its kind in a major university in the United States. He is a founding member and former board member of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. He is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.

Dr. Garrick currently serves on the Editorial Boards of The Physician and Sportsmedicine, The American Journal of Sports Medicine, Medical Problems of Performing Artists, and The Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. He is coauthor of Sports Injuries: Diagnosis and Management (2nd edition), a book directed at primary care physicians, and is coauthor of Anybody's Sports Medicine Book, a book directed at recreational and professional athletes as well as sports and fitness enthusiasts. Recently, Dr. Garrick was named Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Dance Medicine.


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