Back pain is a common ailment that can impede daily activities and in extreme cases, be debilitating. Back pain can be triggered by a number of diverse factors, from muscle strain and overuse, to simple alignment issues and even genetics. The following list is a summary of the most frequent back pain risks and the some recommended methods for mitigating those risks.
- Are you middle-aged? You are more likely to strain yourself when you are middle-aged. This may be because middle-aged individuals are still active but perhaps experiencing declining fitness/health. The likelihood of back injury goes down significantly after age 65, likely due to decreased activity and a better understanding of one’s limitations. The best advice is to be realistic and don’t push yourself too far. "Weekend warriors" are especially at risk and there is a lot to be said for the cliché, "Lift with your knees, not your back."
- Are you male? Both women and men experience back pain, but approximately 61.1% of back pain sufferers are male. Men tend to carry weight on their abdomen which increases back strain. Men are also more likely to take on challenging physical activity involving heavy weight. Keeping your weight in check, and keeping weight lifting activity consistent, rather than sporadic and excessive, will help to prevent back pain in the long term.
- Are you pregnant or have you gained significant weight around your mid-section? As mentioned earlier, carrying weight around the mid section increases back strain. Again, weight control and taking extra care when pregnant will help to reduce this risk.
- Do you have a family history of back pain? Muscle, ligament, and body proportion abnormalities are genetic in nature and can be passed down in the family. If a family member has back pain, chances are higher that you will too.
- Have you hurt your back before? People with previous back injury are significantly more likely to injure their backs again. Once injury has occurred it is important to address the underlying issue. You may need to keep a structured weight lifting program to stabilize weak muscles, or perhaps purchase custom orthotic insoles to align the joints better. It is important to speak with your doctor so that you can identify the issue and create a customized plan for addresses the root cause(s) of the pain. In some instances, you may need to speak with you doctor about specific support braces.
- Do you smoke? Though the reason is unclear, smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to suffer lower back pain. As always, the best health advice is to refrain from smoking.
- Do you have a job that involves excessive sitting or repetitive movement? You are at greater risk for back pain if your job requires that you to sit for long periods, bend or twist, lift heavy objects, conduct repetitive motions or experience constant vibration (for example, jack hammering.) If you have a job that requires these sorts of activities, practice recommended safety precautions.
- Do you have poor posture? Slumping and slouching can increase the likelihood of back pain. Maintaining good posture helps to support the spine and back muscles. If you have a particularly weak back, you may want to speak with your doctor about support braces.
- Are you stressed out or depressed? Stress, depression, and other intense emotions can result in excess strain on muscles and ligaments resulting in back pain.
- Are you using medications that weaken bones over a long period of time? Some medication such as corticosteroids can weaken bones and eventually lead to back pain. It is best to address medication side effects with your doctor.
Back pain is a common and annoying physical ailment that, in some instances, can be debilitating. If you feel you are at risk of back pain, the best strategy for mitigating that risk is regular exercise (as recommend by your physician), weight control, correct posture and attention to your emotional health. If you have hurt yourself in the past, create a custom regimen with your physician to strengthen the affected area. Good back health starts with these fundamentals.
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