How to take good care of your back
Back safety is no joke. Preventing a back injury is much easier than repairing one. Because your back is critically important to your ability to walk, sit, stand, and work, it’s essential to take good care of it. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about back safety that can help you avoid a painful injury.
Q: What causes back problems?
A: A number of things:
- Poor physical condition. If your back muscles are weak or if you’ve put on a few pounds, your back must work harder. Making your back work harder can lead to back pain.
- Poor posture. Standing, sitting, or lying incorrectly will put strain on your spine. Your spine is designed to operate best in its natural “S” shape.
- Aging. As we age, the muscles in our backs lose their strength and ability to function.
- Tension and stress. Tight and knotted muscles, which are caused by tension and stress, can cause muscle spasms and back pain.
Q: What can I do to keep my back healthy?
A: You can:
- Exercise to strengthen your back and reduce stress. Having strong back and stomach muscles is important in order to ease the work your back is put through each day.
- Lose excess weight. Excess weight exerts extra force on back and stomach muscles. By losing weight, you can reduce strain and pain in your back.
- Maintain good posture. You can prevent many back injuries by learning to sit and stand correctly. The best way to sit is straight, with your back against the back of the chair. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your knees slightly higher than your hips. Stand tall with your head up and shoulders back.
- Lift correctly. Keep reading to learn about proper lifting procedure.
Q: When carrying a load, is it OK to turn or twist my back as long as I turn my torso?
A: No. Minimize any turning or twisting. If you must turn while carrying a load, turn your feet in the direction you want to go, rather than twisting your upper body.
One of the best ways to protect your back on the job and avoid other lifting-related injuries is to use proper lifting techniques. Before lifting, think about the job. Examine the object for sharp corners, slippery spots, or other potential hazards. Know your lifting limit and don’t try to exceed it.
Ask for help or divide the load, if possible, to make each lift lighter. Also know where you’re going to set the item down, and make sure your path is free of obstructions that could cause you to trip and fall.
When you’re ready to lift, take these steps:
- Stand close to the load with your feet spread about shoulder width apart, with one foot slightly in front of the other for balance.
- Squat down, bending at the knees (not your waist). Tuck your chin while keeping your back as vertical as possible.
- Get a firm grasp on the object before beginning the lift.
- Slowly begin lifting with your legs by straightening them. Never twist your body during this step.
- Once the lift is complete, keep the object as close to your body as possible. As the load’s center of gravity moves away from the body, there’s a dramatic increase in stress to the lower back.
Don’t forget to set the load down correctly, too. Squat and let your legs take the weight as you place the object down. Also remember to keep your fingers out of the way!