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Lisa Rabinowitz, PT
Ouch -" My Aching Back
The Virginian

Ouch -" My Aching Back

Ouch. My aching back. These are words often muttered by someone with a sore back. Four out of five adults experience back pain at least once in their lifetime. Back pain is a leading cause of office visits to the doctor. The good news is that back pain is common, but also, often preventable.

The back consists of the spinal column that has four normal curvatures. At the neck, or cervical region, the spine curves in. At the thoracic or mid-back the spine curves out. At the low back or lumbar region it curves in and the sacrum curves out. It is important to maintain the normal curvatures of the spine.

For prevention of back pain it is critical to build strong and flexible muscles, especially the abdominal and back musculature. Maintaining a healthy body weight is essential to prevent a strain on the back muscles.

Quit smoking. Smokers have decreased oxygen levels in their spinal tissue and this decreases the healing process when needed.

Good body mechanics are essential when lifting objects and to maintain proper body alignment. While standing, keep your feet apart so that your pelvis is aligned in a neutral position. If you must stand in one position for a long time, alternate putting one leg on a foot-stool to take some of the load off of your back.

When sitting, select a chair or couch that allows your feet to be positioned on the floor and your hips and knees to be positioned at 90 degrees. If the chair or couch is too soft, it may be helpful to place a small pillow or rolled up towel behind the small of your back.

When lifting, remember to hold the object close to your body and keep your feet apart for a wider base of support. Most importantly, lift with your legs by bending at the knees, and not your back. When possible, eliminate twisting motions. For example, when making your bed move your feet around the bed to straighten the sheets and blankets, as opposed to reaching across the bed.

When first afflicted with back pain, try to apply ice for 10 to 20 minutes two to three times a day and keep moving within your level of pain tolerance. Do not participate in any activity that exacerbates your back pain. If tolerated, use pain relievers approved by your physician. If back pain persists for more than one week, or if the pain radiates into your buttocks or legs, then you should consult with your doctor. Remember, in many cases back pain is common, but preventable.

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