I have suffered from back pain for more than 30 years and have experienced multiple flare-ups when I could not leave my house, and occasionally was unable to even get out of bed.
Although back pain tends to come and go with most people, it can be chronic and even permanently disabling.
The most common cause of disability among Americans under the age of 45 is actually chronic back pain. Its economic impact is enormous and exceeds an estimated $1 billion annually.
These staggering associated costs are better appreciated by understanding the significant time period which can accompany recovery from acute back pain. While 60 percent of acute back pain sufferers recover in six weeks, another 20-30 percent require 6-12 weeks. The remaining 10-20percent have a more uncertain recovery period.
Understandably, economic losses from time off and other economic impacts to employers can quickly add up. As much as 20 percent of all workers’ compensation claims can be attributed to back injuries with most of those occurring in individuals involved in heavy manual labor and material handling activities.
The most common form is lower back pain, which results from protracted standing or sitting, long lever activities involving arm extension such as painting, vacuuming, and equipment operation. In these situations a person’s arms are both elevated and extended away from the body or frequently from levered postures where the body is bending forward which includes lifting injuries.
Studies have shown that both injury and discomfort is reduced when a person’s spinal column is balanced by multi-directional forces, which results from frequently changing positions, walking and moving.
Preventing back pain is strongly recommended. But how can we do that? For some time now, studies have shown that yoga can be more effective than surgery and medical care when dealing with back pain.
As a former police officer and “hard-charging” Army guy, I never thought I would do yoga. But after numerous medical and scientific studies touting yoga’s advantages for back pain, and 30 years of recurring problems, I finally tried it. Guess what? My back has never been better!
Yoga, which requires an individual to hold gentle poses anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds, is based on centuries of developed symmetry within the body to balance flexion, extension, rotation and stretching. Very often back injuries happen from an asymmetric state within the back.
In my personal experience, yoga has helped my body, especially my back, become better conditioned through various beneficial poses that have improved flexibility, posture and deportment.
Doing yoga has helped my back more than anything else I have personally tried. And many of my patients say the same thing.
Below are some tips to prevent back pain.
Before you begin:
- Assess the weight of the object before lifting
- Know your lifting limit
- Examine the object for potential hazards
- Ask for help if needed, or divide the load to make it lighter
- Make sure the area around you is free of clutter
- Stand close to the load with your feet shoulder width apart
- Squat down keeping your back in a neutral posture
- Get a firm close grasp of the object before beginning the lift
- Lift with your legs and in a non-jerky manner
- Keep the object close to the body within your base of support. Finish the lift maintaining a good base of support and neutral spine
Remember, injuries can be permanent, so work carefully to prevent them and stay healthy by practicing sensible exercise, yoga and always eating properly.
Sean O’Mara, MD, is a Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks. Dr. O’Mara works in our Minneapolis centers.
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