Lower back pain is one of the most common injuries for the average person. Typically, low back pain can happen from bending, twisting, lifting, car accidents, weight lifting, sports or sitting. Overuse, poor body mechanics and a weak core can put you at risk for injuring your back. There are several ways to prevent low back pain but in the case that you do get back pain, physical therapy can help alleviate your symptoms.
The most common type of low-back injury occurs during lifting and or bending. If an object is too heavy or awkward, you first should try to get help. When attempting to lift an object, you need to spread your feet about shoulder-width apart to give yourself a wide base of support. In addition, stand as close as possible to the object that you are lifting. Bend at your knees and not at your waist. Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the object while holding the object as close as possible to your body. Lift up by using legs and do not bend forward. Make sure that you are not twisting your body while lifting up the object.
There are other ways to prevent lower-back injuries with everyday tasks. Avoid standing for long periods but if you must stand for your work or an activity use a step stool by your feet. Rest one foot on the step stool at a time and alternate. Wear comfortable shoes that have cushioned soles when walking. When sitting, especially if using a computer, four things need to happen: make sure that your feet are touching the ground; your knees should be at or slightly higher that your hips; your elbows should be bent at about 90 degrees and make sure that your eyes line up with the top of your computer screen. Also make sure that your chair has a good lower back support and if not, you can use a small pillow or rolled towel and place it at the lower curvature of your spine. If you drive long distances, stop and walk around every hour or so and do not lift heavy objects just after a long ride. Lastly, having a stronger core and exercising regularly will help decrease the changes of hurting your back.
Physical therapists are experts on how the body moves; they help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. A physical therapist likely is the best person to alleviate your back symptoms because of their array of interventions to make you feel better. The most important intervention is manual therapy that can include stretching, soft tissue and joint mobilizations. Specific strengthening and flexibility exercises would be given by the therapist along with perhaps a cardiovascular component. The physical therapist also may use ice, heat and or electric stimulation to help relieve some of your back symptoms. The therapist also will educate you about how you can take better care of your back. That education should include proper lifting, bending and sitting mechanics for home, work and leisure activities. Also, a home-exercise program would be made and discussed between you and the physical therapist to prevent lower-back pain and improve your overall health.
John Gallucci Jr. is the president of JAG Physical Therapy (www.japgpt.com) with nine locations throughout New Jersey.