Lumbago has many different causes, including normal wear and tear that comes with aging. Although you can't turn back the clock or prevent any kind of painful back disorder, in most cases there are things you can do to help keep your back healthy.
1. Stay Fit
Weak back and abdominal muscles - due to loss of physical condition or age - can cause or exacerbate many cases of low back pain. That's why stretching and strengthening the back and abdominal muscles is important not only for the treatment of low back pain, but also to help prevent a recurrence of the problem.
Exercise strengthens and lengthens the muscles that support the spine.
A good exercise regimen should target the muscles of the back, abdomen, and buttocks. Strong hip flexor or abdominal muscles, for example, can help people maintain an upright posture, just as strong extensor muscles, which extend along the length of the back, can help us maintain the alignment of the vertebrae.
Stretching is a valuable component of any treatment plan. Stretched and flexible muscles are less prone to injury. And shorter, less flexible connective and muscular tissues restrict mobility of the joints, increasing the likelihood of sprains and strains.
Certain aerobic activities are safer for your back than others. For example, cycling (whether stationary or regular), swimming, walking, and driving are part of the list of low-risk, high-benefit activities for people's backs. All are low- or minimal-impact exercises that strengthen the muscles that support the back of the body. None involve stressful actions that are harmful to back muscles.
However, sports and activities such as soccer, tennis, gymnastics, wrestling, weightlifting, rowing, running, aerobic dance, and ballet involve a relatively high risk of back injuries due to extension, lifting, or trauma involved.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Although carrying too much weight in itself has not been shown to be a primary cause of back pain disorders, overweight or obesity can slow your recovery. Those extra pounds also increase the risk of recurring back pain.
The more you weigh, the greater the load your spine must bear. To make matters worse, if most of your weight is in the form of abdominal fat rather than muscle, your center of gravity may shift forward - a condition that adds pressure to your back. By maintaining a healthy weight, you can relieve the burden on your spine. To see if you are at a healthy weight (normal), calculate your body mass index (BMI), which considers both your height and weight. Not only will keeping a normal BMI (in the range of 19-25) help your back, but it will also reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. You can find a BMI calculator here.
3. Don't Smoke
You've undoubtedly heard this message before: smoking damages your health. Not only does this habit increase the risk of lung cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and a plethora of other health problems, but it also endangers your back.
Research shows that smokers have more frequent episodes of back pain than non-smokers, and the more a person smokes, the greater the risk that he or she will experience an episode of back pain, according to a study.
Scientists believe that nicotine in cigarettes contributes to low back pain in two ways. First, nicotine hampers blood flow to the vertebrae and discs. This impairs their function and can trigger a back pain episode. Second, smokers tend to lose bone faster than non-smokers, placing them at greater risk for osteoporosis, another common cause of low back pain.
4. Lighten Your Load
Backpacks have become ubiquitous - at school, at work, at play. However, an overloaded backpack can be a harbinger of back pain.
If you use a backpack, you can take steps to protect yourself. To start, use both straps of the backpack instead of one strap over one shoulder. Try to carry only the essentials, and lighten your load whenever possible. Opt for backpacks that have compartments of different sizes to help distribute weight evenly. And look for padded and wide straps and a padded back. When carrying a heavy load, place the heaviest objects as close as possible to the center of your back, and use the waistband for support. For very heavy loads, use a backpack with wheels. Above all, remember to bend your knees when picking up your pack.
5. Develop Healthy Back Habits
Everyday activities, from vacuuming your house to sitting in front of the computer for hours, can have consequences on your back, particularly if you've received education on proper body mechanics. But you can benefit your back by following these simple tips:
While standing to perform common tasks such as ironing or folding clothes, keep one foot on a low stool.
Do not sit or stand in the same position for too long. Stretch, change your position, or walk whenever you can.
When bending at your waist, always use your hands to support yourself.
When sitting, keep your knees slightly higher than your hips and bend at a 90-degree angle. Sit with your feet comfortably on the floor. If your feet do not reach the floor, put a book or small stool under them.
Because vacuuming can cause back problems, divide rooms into chunks, and don't use it for more than five to 10 minutes at a time when you do.