Back pain is something which affects a large number of people, and the most commonly affected region is the lumbar, or lower back.
When the disc is compressed and abnormal pressure is put on it, it can press on the spinal cord, or adjacent nerves. This can cause pain, which may or may not radiate down the leg.
Pain can be triggered in many ways; poor posture, bad lifting techniques, incorrect furniture and poor working positions.
Always try to maintain an upright posture, with stomach in and the back kept straight. Imagine that you are being lifted up by the top of your head. You should bear weight equally through both legs, transmitting the weight of your body down the centre of your spine. This applies to standing, walking and sitting. Avoid hunching up the shoulders when anxious or under stress.
Excess weight only adds to the stresses put upon the spine. Ask your doctor to advise you if your weight is greater than average for your height.
Use straight-backed, firm chairs, not heavily padded ones, and preferably shaped, or with some support to the lumbar region of your back (the ‘small’ or your back. If this is not possible, place a cushion there if sitting for a long period of time. Avoid slouching in deep easy chairs or sofas, especially when concentrating for a long time – when watching television, for example.
Use a firm mattress. This does not mean a hard bed – firm mattresses allow some absorption of the hip and shoulder. Do not continue to use an old mattress which is worn out and gives insufficient support, as this will aggravate any stress for the long period when your spine needs the rest and time to ‘recharge’ your back.
Find out which positions for lying that avoid pain. If you lie on your back, try a pillow under your knees, and if you lie on your side, bend your knees and hips a little and try a pillow between your knees.
Try out several beds before you buy in the store and choose the one which is most comfortable for you. There is no particular advantage to be gained by buying expensive so-called ‘orthopaedic’ beds. Even a board placed under the mattress of a bed which is too soft will help. Do not use more than two pillows, to keep the natural curve of your back in line.
The perfect car seat for back pain sufferers has not yet been invented, and scientific research has not yet found the ideal seat which will cater for people of different heights, weight and size. Because you spend so much time in the car, often under stress, try to find one which is comfortable and can be adjusted for height level and angle of the back and distance from the steering wheel. If it has little or no support to the lumbar region, fit a cushion or one of the many manufactured supports available. Adjust your seat for maximum comfort so that hips and knees are well flexed with arms relaxed and bent to the wheel.
On a long journey, stop occasionally and walk around to relax your legs and ease your spine.
The garden can be a danger area for the back pain sufferer. Vary your work, not doing one job for longer than half an hour at a time. Kneel on a pad or sit on a low stool to weed or sow – never bend down suddenly. Mow the lawn with the mower’s handles held close to the body and use long handled implements where possible so that you can remain upright. If you have to dig, dispose of the soil ahead of you a little at a time to avoid twisting whilst lifting
Lifting and Carrying
For those with back problems, don’t lift heavy objects. Let someone else do the lifting and carrying if possible. If you do need to lift an item, be very careful as the back is put under increased strain.
The Lifting Code
- Prepare for the lift. Check the load’s weight. If too heavy, obtain assistance. Is your route clear of obstructions?
- Position. Stand close to the load, feet either side and facing the way you intend to move. Ensure equal balance to each leg. Keep your back straight at all times. Get down to the level of the load by bending hips and knees. With elbows close to the thighs grip the load, preferably with one hand below and to one side, the other above on the other side. Use the whole hand, not just the fingers.
- The Lift. Keeping the back straight and arms close to the body, lean forward a little and then with one smooth co-ordinated movement, straighten the hips and knees lifting the object close to the body.
- Lowering. Reverse the lifting action, bending hips and knees with a straight back, to place the load.
Carry objects as close to the body as possible, and if a weight can be broken down, do so. When shopping or travelling, use two lighter bags rather than one heavy one. Better still, use a trolley.