You may be doing your back exercises conscientiously, avoid slouching and pay attention to your posture, but still undo all the good work with one seemingly harmless movement. It can be so discouraging, and the culprit is usually a simple movement that you have always done effortlessly and without thinking, such as tying shoelaces or reaching into a high cupboard. Look after your back even better and try to avoid these 5 things that could make back pain worse. Some of the tips are also important to prevent back pain, as they are about making daily tasks more efficient and safe for your back.
We are not always aware how frequently we lift and carry things until our back hurts: placing a child on your lap, picking up your rucksack, taking wet laundry out of the washing machine. When your back hurts, it is crucial to avoid bending over and straightening your back while carrying a heavy load, making your lower back do all the work. In fact, even when you have no back pain, this way of lifting is not a good idea. Obviously, when your back pain is acute, avoid lifting altogether. Once in the recovery stage, learn to bend your legs and keep the back straight. While straightening the legs, it is the legs that do the work rather than your back.
If squatting is not easy, try to go down on one knee instead. In fact, learning to squat or lowering yourself on one knee (using a padded surface if necessary and alternating knees) is an important skill to have or to develop when your back hurts. This is not to say that you can never bend your back at all: of course it is best to keep the spine mobile with specific back exercises. However, keep your back straight while lifting things.
Bending down (often with a twisting movement added to it) is another movement we do repeatedly without being aware of it: putting shoes on, tying shoelaces, picking something off the floor, emptying the dishwasher, etc. When picking something off the floor, it is again important to keep the back straight and bend the legs, either in a squatting position or by bringing one knee to the floor.
One-sided sports and running
This may be bad news for those of you who love golf, tennis, squash, running, … and having to stop your favourite activity is perhaps just temporary. But while your back is achy, try to find another exercise that you love and that does not hurt, such as walking or swimming.
“Crunching” to come out of bed
Many people upset their back by coming out of bed in the wrong way: they crunch up, bringing head and shoulders up first and slightly over. If the back muscles are fragile, they may suddenly spasm. Instead, make a habit of rolling over to the side and pushing yourself up with one or both hands. In this way your arms take the load away from the back.
A regular yoga class
It is possible that a gentle yoga class is helpful when you have mild back ‘achiness’ or a tight lower back. For more serious back pain, however, a general yoga class is not suitable and may even be harmful. Yoga therapy in a one-to-one setting is different: you are told which poses to avoid and which to practise. Yoga therapists have had additional training; they know that the diverse causes of back pain call for different approaches. They also know that every back is different and what helps one person has to be adapted for the other person with a seemingly similar back issue. So while yoga therapy can be helpful because it also helps with relaxation, strengthening, etc. a regular yoga class usually is not.
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