Five ways to preserve your back while doing chores
During the warmer months, many of us are at increased risk for back injury. Activities such as cleaning the house, working in the yard, or lifting coolers can place significant stresses on our lower backs. Orthopedic spine surgeon Michael Peelle, MD, explained how to prevent a back injury, as well as what to do if you are injured.
“The lumbar spine, which is comprised of soft discs and strong vertebral bodies, is designed to resist direct compressive loads,” said Dr. Peelle. “However, twisting or stooping activities place eccentric loads upon the lower back leading potentially leading to significant injury.”
Five simple steps can help prevent these types of back injuries:
- Know your weight limits. Do not attempt to lift excessively heavy objects.
- Carry heavy items close to your body. Avoid twisting or bending sideways while moving the heavy object.
- Do not bend straight over at your waist to pull up on heavy objects. Rather, squat down by bending one or both knees to get closer to the floor then move your body upward by straightening at the legs, while keeping your back straight.
- Wear a supportive back brace if heavy lifting or repetitive work is unavoidable.
- Stretching exercises for the lower back performed daily and prior to activity may help prevent injuries.
Dr. Peelle said if you experience a sharp, knife-like feeling in the lower back, this is an acute episode of back pain and you should take the following steps:
- Stop the lifting activity immediately. Try to slowly stretch your lumbar spine by bending forward and backward.
- If the pain lasts more than a few hours, consider placing an ice pack over the injured area. Generally, ice is better than using heat for an acute injury.
- Medications including ibuprofen and acetaminophen may be helpful for inflammation and pain.
Sometimes the back pain can be more than just a muscle or ligament strain. Dr. Peelle said these are the reasons to seek medical attention because the underlying cause of back pain may be more significant:
- Persistent back pain that prohibits activities of daily living
- Numbness, tingling, shooting pain or weakness in either leg
- Acute urinary incontinence
- Fevers associated with the back pain
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