Back Injury Prevention

Back injuries can be extremely painful and difficult to heal. After having one back injury, you are much more likely to experience another later on. It is important to learn how to avoid injuring or re-injuring your back. The following tips can help you to prevent a back injury.

PHYSICAL FITNESS

  • Exercise regularly and try to develop good tone in your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles provide a lot of the support needed by your back.

  • Do aerobic exercises (walking, jogging, biking, swimming) regularly.

  • Do exercises that increase balance and strength (tai chi, yoga) regularly. This can decrease your risk of falling and injuring your back.

  • Stretch before and after exercising.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. The more you weigh, the more stress is placed on your back. For every pound of weight, 10 times that amount of pressure is placed on the back.

DIET

  • Talk to your caregiver about how much calcium and vitamin D you need per day. These nutrients help to prevent weakening of the bones (osteoporosis). Osteoporosis can cause broken (fractured) bones that lead to back pain.

  • Include good sources of calcium in your diet, such as dairy products, green, leafy vegetables, and products with calcium added (fortified).

  • Include good sources of vitamin D in your diet, such as milk and foods that are fortified with vitamin D.

  • Consider taking a nutritional supplement or a multivitamin if needed.

  • Stop smoking if you smoke.

POSTURE

  • Sit and stand up straight. Avoid leaning forward when you sit or hunching over when you stand.

  • Choose chairs with good low back (lumbar) support.

  • If you work at a desk, sit close to your work so you do not need to lean over. Keep your chin tucked in. Keep your neck drawn back and elbows bent at a right angle. Your arms should look like the letter "L."

  • Sit high and close to the steering wheel when you drive. Add a lumbar support to your car seat if needed.

  • Avoid sitting or standing in one position for too long. Take breaks to get up, stretch, and walk around at least once every hour. Take breaks if you are driving for long periods of time.

  • Sleep on your side with your knees slightly bent, or sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees. Do not sleep on your stomach.

LIFTING, TWISTING, AND REACHING

  • Avoid heavy lifting, especially repetitive lifting. If you must do heavy lifting:

  • Stretch before lifting.

  • Work slowly.

  • Rest between lifts.

  • Use carts and dollies to move objects when possible.

  • Make several small trips instead of carrying 1 heavy load.

  • Ask for help when you need it.

  • Ask for help when moving big, awkward objects.

  • Follow these steps when lifting:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

  • Get as close to the object as you can. Do not try to pick up heavy objects that are far from your body.

  • Use handles or lifting straps if they are available.

  • Bend at your knees. Squat down, but keep your heels off the floor.

  • Keep your shoulders pulled back, your chin tucked in, and your back straight.

  • Lift the object slowly, tightening the muscles in your legs, abdomen, and buttocks. Keep the object as close to the center of your body as possible.

  • When you put a load down, use these same guidelines in reverse.

  • Do not:

  • Lift the object above your waist.

  • Twist at the waist while lifting or carrying a load. Move your feet if you need to turn, not your waist.

  • Bend over without bending at your knees.

  • Avoid reaching over your head, across a table, or for an object on a high surface.

OTHER TIPS

  • Avoid wet floors and keep sidewalks clear of ice to prevent falls.

  • Do not sleep on a mattress that is too soft or too hard.

  • Keep items that are used frequently within easy reach.

  • Put heavier objects on shelves at waist level and lighter objects on lower or higher shelves.

  • Find ways to decrease your stress, such as exercise, massage, or relaxation techniques. Stress can build up in your muscles. Tense muscles are more vulnerable to injury.

  • Seek treatment for depression or anxiety if needed. These conditions can increase your risk of developing back pain.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You injure your back.

  • You have questions about diet, exercise, or other ways to prevent back injuries.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.