Take care of those backs


Joseph M. Harris

Low back pain is a common problem in our society. 80 percent of Americans will experience low back pain at some time in their lives, and one quarter of Americans have back pain at any given time. It is a very common problem in our society. Many times low back pain is easily treated. And it can be prevented.

By taking care of your back through a healthy lifestyle you can prevent back pain. Good nutrition is important to helping injured tissues heal from overuse. Also, we find increased incidence of low back pain among smokers and in people who are overweight. You can protect your back by having strong back and stomach muscles. Having good flexibility is important to decrease the stress on your back. Tight leg muscles cause your back to have to bend more during movement and does not allow some of the movement to be taken through your hips and legs. Even wearing tight clothing that restricts motion, such as tight blue jeans, can act like tight muscles and restrict movement of the hips and legs causing the back to have to move more. Also be sure to position your body properly to protect your back. Use good body mechanics when you are lifting at home or at work. When lifting, keep objects close to you and ask for assistance when lifting heavy objects. Also avoid slouching and be sure to maintain good body posture when sitting, bending, lifting, working, and with leisure activities.

If you do experience low back pain that does not change with rest, or if you have numbness into your groin, thigh, or leg, or if there is a loss of bowel or bladder control, then see a health care professional immediately. When you do have low back pain, it is usually best to stay active and maintain your normal routine to the best of your ability. Prolonged bed rest can delay recovery.

If you have back pain that persists longer than a couple of days, physical therapy can be very effective in resolving your symptoms. Physical therapists are experts in movement and function. Physical therapists help people restore motion, reduce pain, and regain function lost with an injury or illness. Your physical therapist will thoroughly examine you and assess the cause of your pain. The physical therapist will evaluate things like posture, strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Your physical therapist will also ask you questions about your daily activities to assess the cause and effects of your condition on your daily function. An individualized program will then be set up for you based on the evaluation by your physical therapist. This program may include manual therapy, strengthening, education and other treatments to decrease pain, improve flexibility, improve strength, improve motion, and improve overall function to allow you to return to your daily home, work, and leisure activities. Physical therapists also help to reduce the risks of injury and prevent further dysfunction by determining the causes of your condition and helping you to reduce your risk factors for back injury.

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