How to Wreck Your Back
You may be setting yourself up for back pain. Find out how to stop it before it starts.
Back Wreckers #4 and #5: Commuting and Computing continued...
Prevent it: You're going to sit. So try these tactics to lessen its impact on your back:
- Get up and move at least once every 20 minutes, unless you're driving. Set your screen saver to remind you; make a habit of going for a drink of water; when you answer the phone, stand up to stretch and change positions.
- Keep your spine properly aligned by holding reading material at eye level (when sitting or standing) rather than bending over. Don't lean over a desk or table to work. Whenever possible, your spine should be straight.
- Choose a chair that supports your back. Adjust the chair so that your feet stay flat on the floor. If the chair doesn't support your lower back's curve, place a rolled towel or small pillow behind your lower back. Remove anything from your back pockets, especially a wallet, if you'll be seated for long periods of time because this puts your spine out of alignment.
Gokhale suggests doing the following exercises to help lengthen your spine:
- Get on your hands and knees. Reach your left arm straight ahead and straighten your right leg behind you. Use your stomach muscles to stabilize. Hold for 5-10 seconds and slowly return to starting position. Switch arm and leg. Repeat 3-5 times on each side.
- Sit tall, lengthen your spine, and let your shoulders relax. Concentrate on squeezing your shoulder blades together, keeping your arms hanging at your sides. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then release. Repeat 10-20 times.
If All Else Fails
The experts interviewed for this story all told WebMD that most back pain should abate with in 48 hours with a nonprescription pain reliever. But in some cases, your pain could require urgent care.
You need immediate attention if you suffer any loss of bladder or bowel control with your back pain, Hisey says. This is associated with a disc that's pressing on nerves and the faster you relieve the pressure, the faster the function returns.
"Most back pain won't radiate below the waist," Shamie says. "If you feel pain in the thighs or knees, you likely have a disc herniation causing nerve compression." Seek medical attention to ensure there isn't more serious damage.
If your back pain keeps coming back, see a medical professional. You may have begun to rupture a disc or have another injury that could require treatment. "The older you are, the quicker you should get to a specialist," Shamie says.