During the winter months, we see a lot of patients come in complaining of lower back pain from shoveling, sitting in a chair all day, or doing manual labor. The marvelous strength and flexibility that’s engineered into your lower back also make it susceptible to developing lots of problems. Over time, poor posture or repetitive stress can lead to muscle strain or other soft tissue problems. And while a muscle strain sounds simple, in the lower back the pain from a simple strain can be severe. So how can you protect your back throughout the rest of this winter season so you are not coming to us in pain? Here are 5 tips:
- Exercise Your Core: Strong core muscles are key, as they provide the most support for your lower back and can help you prevent any injuries. Pilates includes plenty of core strengthening exercises, and is fairly low impact making it ideal for people who don’t exercise. We also recommend taking a 30 minute brisk walk, which will increase blood flow to your spine and supply healing nutrients to the structures in your lower back.
- Improve Your Posture: This is perhaps one of the most important things you can do for your back- good posture is crucial! Poor posture places pressure on your back and can cause degenerated discs to become more painful. Get an ergonomic chair and set a timer on your phone to remind yourself to check your posture during the work day. Also, get up and walk around at least once every hour if you sit most of the day. This will help save your back in the long run!
- Lift Correctly: If you are lifting heavy objects or shoveling snow, make sure you understand how to lift correctly so you prevent injuring your back. There are plenty of articles and YouTube videos that explain the proper lifting techniques to use.
- Focus on Overall Health: Your spine reflects the overall health of your body. With that in mind, anything you would do to improve your health in general will help protect your lower back. Drinking enough water, minimizing your consumption of alcohol, and not smoking is good for your mind, body and soul!
- Stretch Your Hamstrings: Tight hamstrings can contribute to lower back problems, believe it or not. Simple hamstring stretching exercises can help decrease the pressure on your pelvis and provide relief across your lower back. Before you do any exercises (we recommend doing a few google searches), check with your physical therapist or doctor to make sure they are safe for you.
Try to incorporate some of these tips into your everyday life, and you’ll find that your overall health will improve as well! We hope that this blog post will help you prevent or minimize any future flare-ups of back pain, or future development of any new problems. Enjoy the rest of the the winter- we personally cannot wait until it is SPRING!