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Sit Stand and Stretch

Ernie prided himself on being just an average guy. He played a bit of sport – tennis and bowling. He did no other exercise, but considered himself reasonably fit.

Some of his friends used to complain about back pains. He would just laugh and call them wimps. That is, until one evening when he doubled up in pain after a few minutes of tennis practice.

“You're just getting old,” said his coach. “It happens to all of us after a while,” said teammate Bob. Ernie tried to ignore the problem, but it wouldn’t go away. Finally his wife insisted he go to the doctor. The doctor examined him, provided analgesic, and recommended he see a physiotherapist.

To make a long story short, Ernie now takes more care of his back. And the physiotherapist who treated him also outlined the basic principles of proper back care. He now says that he wished he had known those principles a lot sooner.

1. Understand How Your Back Works

The back is a strong and complex structure of bones (vertebrae), muscles, discs, ligaments and nerves. The discs, thick fibrous structures between the vertebrae, act as shock absorbers. They also allow for flexibility and movement of the back in different directions.

Strong ligaments hold the vertebrae and discs together. However, the discs and ligaments may harden with age and inactivity. This leads to poor flexibility, and any undue stress on them causes pain or injury.

In the upright position, the spine has three gentle curves, which allow for optimal flexibility and shock absorption. The spine's inward curve the lower back is the area where most injuries occur.

2. Maintain Good Posture at All Times

Good posture means conserving the three soft curves in the spine.

Sitting. The weight on the spine while a person sitting is 30 percent more than when he stands, and 50 percent more than when lying down. Therefore, you should lessen the strain while you are sitting, and avoid extended periods of sitting without standing or moving.

Not all people can afford ergonomically designed work areas with changeable desks and footstools, gas-powered office chairs with lumbar brace and gears designed to situate reading material and computer screens at eye level. Nevertheless, you can learn the rules of proper sitting posture to almost all situations.

When you sit, position your feet in place on the floor then put your bottom right at the rear of the chair (cannot be done when legs are crossed). If the chair is overly deep or high for you, a footstool or cushion might be a required. Raise your chest upward and forward, and bow down your head softly to position your chin tucked in.

Utilize soft cushions to fit the chair to your body shape because armchairs are normally too deep. Rather than embedding your body into the outline of the chair.

If sitting at a table or desk, you can attain proper body alignment by inclining forward at the hips with knees separated. Utilize the boundary of the desk - with arms positioned on it - to reinforce the chest. With one hand, you can hold a book, at the proper eye level, while the other hand is supporting your chin.

In regards to driving, position yourself from the stirring wheel so that your elbows are flexed and your head is straight with the torso. Alter your seat if needed. Whenever the back of the seat does not have a supporting outline for the lumbar spine, support the lower back with a molded cushion.

Standing. Avoid extended periods of standing at work or at home. Nevertheless, if your occupation needs a lot of standing, you can lessen back problems by standing the proper way.

  • Raise your chest a bit in front, and let go of any excessive curve of your lower back produced by compact back muscles.
  • Release tension in your shoulders.
  • Stabilize the majority of your body weight just in front of your heels.
  • Do not push back or lock your knees.
  • Softly bow down your head and let your neck feel long at the back and released from tension. Enhancing your body posture will progressively become a habit. Nevertheless, avoid injury by changing over time, keeping with current limitations and not overcorrecting or straining the muscles. Keep in mind, that what we aim to do with effortlessness, we must initially learn to do with persistence.

Learning proper posture has a single instant advantage - it makes you look good!

3. Lift Correctly

  • Keep your feet part and well-spaced around the load.
  • Bend your knees.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Tense or tighten your abdominal muscles while slowly exhaling as you lift.
  • Keep the load close to your body.
  • Avoid twisting.
  • Wherever possible, split the load to be lifted into smaller loads.
  • If possible, push or roll the load rather than lift it.

4. Stretch and Exercise Safely

Adequate strength and muscular endurance will help prevent overexertion injuries. However, a degree of flexibility is also required. Flexibility is the range of possible movement of a group of joints. Stretching joints and their ligaments and muscles beyond their normal elastic limits may damage them. The result is low-back pain which, if aggravated, can lead to chronic disability.

Exercises and stretches can improve the abdominal and back muscle strength and maintain or increase the lower back's flexibility and mobility.

Back stretch. Bring each knee to the chest for 10-15 seconds. An advanced form of this stretch is to bring your forehead to your knee while keeping your other leg straight.

Bridging. Lift your pelvis upward, and hold in line with your knees and shoulders for six seconds. Repeat eight times.

Double knee rotation. Lie on your back with arms spread. With legs bent and knees together, move legs in a gentle pendular motion from side to side.

Sit-up. Hold the raised position (about 30 degrees) for three seconds, then relax. Repeat eight times. Hands grasping opposite shoulders. Feet shouldn't be held or tucked under anything. Keep your chin to your chest.

Side stretch. In standing or lying, slowly slide one hand down the outside of the leg as far as is comfortable. Be careful not to twist trunk. Slowly repeat on other side.

Leg lift. Don't lift your legs higher than the horizontal.

When exercising, remember to take it slowly and always work within your limits. Don't do an exercise or stretch that hurts. Unless otherwise indicated, repeat such exercise as many times as is pleasantly possible within the time you have available.

When stretching, always stretch slowly and smoothly. Don't bounce. Bouncing tends to cause muscle soreness and may lead to muscle tears.

5. Stay Fit for Your Job

A study found that workers in industrial settings with low-back pain weigh more and are less fit than their workmates without low-back pain. Researchers also discovered that once injured, people tend to put on even more weight and further reduce their level of activity.

Obesity is an important risk factor because the trunk has to support excess weight. This adds additional stress to the spine and aggravates back problems. If overweight, try to gradually lose weight by adopting a diet that you can live with for life. Regular aerobic exercise done four times a week for 20-30 minutes each session will maintain general fitness essential for back care.

Health | Fitness


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