By Susan Whirty, Springfield JCC General Manager, Health, Wellness and Membership
Let’s face it, we all know someone who has had short-lived back pain, chronic back pain or a back injury. As fitness professionals, we talk about core strength and core stabilization. An individual’s “core” refers to muscles of both the abdominals and lower back. These muscles are essential to maintaining good posture, back support and balance. Below are some principles and practices to keep in mind while trying to achieve and maintain back health.
First and foremost practicing healthy habits enables you to attain and maintain a strong, supportive, healthy back. Participation in a regular exercise program* that is inclusive of healthy eating habits, strength training and flexibility training is a strong foundation. It is important to strengthen the back with a guided weight training routine while infusing flexibility exercises. Coupled with strength and flexibility training is adopting good postural habits.
Keep your curves!! Keep your back straight and maintain all 3 (neck region, middle back region and lower back region) natural curves in your spine. When sitting, distribute your weight evenly on both hips, keep your head and neck aligned over your shoulder and sit back in your chair. Adjust your chair height so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees and your feet are supported by either the floor or a footrest. And lastly, try to avoid sitting for long periods of time - get up from your chair and move around at least once every hour. When standing try to practice these simple rules: rest a foot on a stool, shift your weight regularly to avoid fatigue, avoid locking out your knees and change positions frequently.
The same goes for driving, try to keep your spine’s natural curves and avoid fatigue by adjusting your seat to maximize comfort and use accessories if needed, such as lumbar supports and/or padded seat covers. Change your posture by moving around in your seat periodically to alleviate muscle fatigue. And most importantly, while on longer car rides take breaks; get out of the car and walk around.
We have all heard, “lift with your legs." Well....LIFT WITH YOUR LEGS!! When lifting it is very important to utilize larger muscles groups to assist in the lift. When lifting, keep your back straight, tighten your abdominal muscles, squat down to lift items from the floor and USE YOUR LEGS to lift....NOT YOUR BACK. Also, try to avoid twisting in your back, pivot from your feet instead and try to keep the load you’re lifting as close to you as possible.
Lastly, it is important to remember when pushing or pulling, it is safer and easier to push rather than pull and whenever possible, utilize a cart or other equipment to assist in transportation.
Be Well, Stay Strong, Take Care of Yourself....your back will thank you over and over again.
*Seek your physician’s OK before starting any exercise program