Just like your teeth, you need to take care of your spine!
The discs in your spine allow a lot of flexibility, but this flexibility means we must be careful with performing certain movements. Unfortunately, an estimated 38% of people experience low back pain (Hoy et al., 2012) annually, because many of us do not move with good posture in our spines.
Bending forward and allowing your low back to round is one of the most dangerous ways to use your back (Hoy et al., 2012; see the picture above). Furthermore, if you lift something heavy or twist while your low back is rounded, the chances of getting injured are much higher (Marshall & McGill, 2010).
One disadvantage of low back pain is that an injury can begin in the low spine without being painful, and as time passes the injury will continue to worsen (Cassinelli & Kang, 2000). Therefore, spine hygiene is important for everyone, and avoiding harmful postures can help prevent back pain from starting.
Here are some tips to keep your back safe as you move and stay active this summer:
1. Before you start any movement, take a moment and tense your stomach; a tight stomach acts like a natural belt to support your spine (Ikeda, 2011).
2. Always keep a neutral posture in your low back. Do not let it arch forward (picture A).
3. Bend your knees when picking up something heavy (picture B). Use the ‘golfer’s lift’ when picking up something light (picture C).
4. Carry heavy loads close to your body and do not twist while carrying them. Turn your feet to face your task (picture D).
Remember to be careful when twisting because it increases the risk of injury, no matter what type of movement!
Your spine’s mobility can actually put it at risk for injury. Take a moment to assess your posture before performing any task that requires bending, lifting, or twisting. Also, make sure you tell someone else about spine hygiene! Too many people develop back pain because they engage in harmful movements without knowing it. Remind your friends and family to bend and lift properly! For more about spine health, see "Five Gifts From Your Spine" by Dr. O'Neil.
Hoy, D., Bain, C., Williams, G., March, L., Brooks, P., Blyth, F., Buchbinder, R. (2012). A systematic review of the global prevalence of low back pain. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 64(6), 2028–2037.
Marshall, L. W., & McGill, S. M. (2010). The role of axial torque in disc herniation. Clinical Biomechanics, 25(1), 6–9.
Cassinelli, E. H., & Kang, J. D. (2000). Current understanding of lumbar disc degeneration. Operative Techniques in Orthopaedics, 10(4), 254–262.
Ikeda, D. M. (2011). Quantification of spine stability: Assessing the role of muscles and their links to eigenvalues and stability. UW Space.