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Top Ten Low Back Tips

by Joe Musolino, DC and Emery Paredes, PT

With 85% of Americans experiencing low back pain at some point in their lives, it's no wonder that everyone has "the" cure for low back pain. While treatment is highly effective when caught early, relief is a lot harder to accomplish when the problem is chronic. Here are ten highly effective tips we teach at our clinic everyday:

1. OK_1_fhealth_R1_E031_1.jpgMake sure you're in the correct sleeping position and on the right surface.

  • You spend 1/3 of your life in a lying position; proper support is critical.
  • Mattresses last 5-7 years and should be replaced periodically.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
  • Sleep on your back with a high pillow between your knees.
  • Sleep on your side with a 3" thick pillow between your knees.
  • Use a pillow high enough to keep your spine in line when lying on your side.

2. Never arise from a lying position by sitting straight up.

  • Practice this safe, stable procedure for sitting up:
  1. Move close to the edge of the bed,
  2. Roll over onto your side,
  3. Bend both knees, draw them up to your chest,
  4. Use your top hand to begin pushing your upper body upward,
  5. As your upper torso rises, use the elbow of your lower arm to assist in rising,
  6. Continue to push with both arms & drop your legs off the side of the bed, and
  7. If you are having pain, wait 30 seconds to allow your spine to adjust before standing.

3. Never lift with your back muscles or lift/bend with your knees straight.

  • If you do a lot of daily lifting, or are working on a special project, which requires a lot of lifting, wear a back brace.
  • Follow these prelifting steps:
  1. Assess the object to be moved for size & weight-weight can surprise you-too light or too heavy are leading causes of back pain,
  2. Assess the route that will be traversed with the object-clear of obstructions and no slippery surfaces, and
  3. Assess the final destination-placement of heavy objects is best at waist height & placement surfaces should be clear and of adequate size/stability to handle the placed object.
  • Practice this safe, stable procedure for lifting:
  1. Assess the object to be moved,
  2. Stand with your feet spread shoulder width apart, one foot slightly in front of the other,
  3. Position the object close to your body,
  4. Bend your knees,
  5. Grasp the object firmly-be sure your grip is assured without slipping,
  6. Set your stomach muscles, and
  7. Lift with your legs, not your back.

4. Wear good shoes-good shoes help absorb shock and correct minor imbalances.

  • Certain foot imbalances can result in faulty poster, leading to back pain.
  • Shoes designed for walking or running generally have better support & cushioning.
  • Shoe wear should be even-check an older pair of shoes for uneven wear patterns on the soles.
  • Many different components go into a quality shoe, but these two are critical:
  1. Arch support design - wear custom insoles to specifically correct your posture issues, and
  2. Padding - padding wears out; the better quality the shoe, the longer the useful life.

5. Pay attention to your posture - posture is hereditary but you can change it through habit and exercise.
  • There are many, many great exercises to improve/correct bad posture.
  • For example, stand in a pelvic tilt: stomach in, back flat, buttocks rolled under, pubic bone out. Pretend you have a book on your head. The object is to balance it and push it to the ceiling.
  • Additionally, join any of our "Back to a Better Back" classes offered through School District 214 or the Mt. Prospect Park District.

6. Stand in a pelvic tilt position.
  • OK_6_fhealth_R1_E024_1.jpgFind a postural position whereby pain is alleviated or at least reduced. Identify this position be relating it to the hours on a clock; practice this position when:
  1. Standing,
  2. Sitting,
  3. Kneeling and
  4. Lying down.

7. When sitting at work, use a good chair-one with a full back, adjustable height and arm/elbow rests.
  • Here are some other helpful tips:
  1. Use a foot rest,
  2. Use a chair wedge or lumbar seat,
  3. Support, and change positions frequently,
  4. Move closer to your desk and steering wheel,
  5. Keep your knees positioned slightly higher than your hips,
  6. Turn your entire body in your chair rather than twisting with your back,
  7. Do not lean forward over your desk (hunching),
  8. Use a copy stand when typing,
  9. Do a chair bend exercise frequently, and
  10. If you spend more than one-third of your day on the phone, use a headset.

8. When walking wear proper shoes, avoid walking on rough terrain & avoid walking on pitched surfaces.
  • Ladies… avoid high heels.
  • Everyone… avoid hard heels.

9. Wear a back brace, if necessary.
  • A back brace should be worn if your job requires lifting all day, if you are doing home repairs or heavy cleaning, if you will have to remain in one position for a long period of time, or during "push-pull" motions, such as raking, waxing, etc.
  • A back brace should be:OK_9_fhealth_R2_E068_1.jpg
  1. AT least 10" in height,
  2. Adjustable for waist & hip variations,
  3. Feel comfortable,
  4. Have good elastic properties, and
  5. Have at least four plastic stays.

10. Allow yourself recovery time - the longer you've had a problem, generally the longer the recovery period.
  • We categorize back, neck and joint pain recovery in three stages of progress. They are:
  1. Relief Care - Joint realignment, soft tissue mending, reduction of tissue and joint inflammation, lifestyle adaptation counseling and home care recommendations,
  2. Stabilization Care - Finalize joint alignment, fine tune lifestyle adaptation, and begin rehabilitative or hardening exercises, and
  3. Maintenance Care - monthly visits/checkups to assure proper joint alignment and mobility for patients with advanced spinal degenerative problems.