Warmer, longer days are here, and backyards, gardens and house projects are calling. But seasonal pastimes and activities also mean added stress and strain on lower back muscles.
Whether you’re a master gardener, backyard putterer or DIY devotee, don’t let low back pain throw a wrench in your outdoor plans. Here are five ways to minimize back stress and keep back pain at bay.
1. Keep the spine aligned.
The lower back is more prone to injury when you twist or lean in an unnatural way. Whether you’re working at a desk, laboring in the yard or catching up on household projects, be sure to keep posture top of mind.
- When doing desk work, use a chair that provides proper lower back support, and sit as close as possible to the desk with your head upright, upper arms parallel to your spine and hands rested at a 90-degree angle on your work surface.
- When standing, keep your spine erect and avoid slouching.
- When lifting objects, bend and straighten from the knees rather than your waist.
- If you're twisting from side to side, remember to move your hips, too.
- If you’re a side sleeper, use a firm pillow between your knees to reduce stress on your hips and lower back and prevent your upper leg from pulling your spine out of alignment.
2. Get moving.
When your lower back hurts, the instinct may be to avoid physical activity and head for the recliner. In fact, not moving enough can weaken core and gluteal muscles, shorten hip flexors and worsen pain over time. And sitting puts 40 to 90 percent more pressure on your back when compared to standing.
Strong core muscles and increased flexibility help prevent lower back pain while you’re in motion. That’s key for activities like gardening and yard work that require leaning, squatting, kneeling, twisting, lifting and crouching.
You don’t have to invest in a personal trainer or jump into a strenuous exercise regimen to strengthen muscles and increase flexibility. Yoga is a relaxing, low-impact activity that promotes strength, flexibility and good posture.
Brisk walking is also a great option for gardeners. It not only strengthens and supports your spine, it warms up muscles and gets your heart pumping. A medical provider can help you find the right kind of exercise plan for you.
3. Wear the right shoes.
If you experience lower back pain, relief may be as close as your feet. Whether you’re digging in a vegetable garden, building a chicken coop or going for a run, the shoes you wear play a big supporting role in protecting your back.
Opting for the right footwear for the activity you’re performing can improve posture, increase stability and decrease the risk of lower back pain.
- For running or other exercise, wear supportive athletic shoes that fit properly.
- If you're doing construction or yard work, wear boots that support and protect.
- Save the flip-flops for the deck. While it's fine to don the occasional high heel or sandal, wearing them frequently or for a prolonged amount of time can increase pressure on your lower spine.
4. Maintain a healthy weight.
Most of the body’s weight is in front of the spine, so extra weight carried around the torso adds significant pressure on the low back. Maintaining a healthy weight can help ease or prevent lower back issues and alleviate stress on other joints.
Even a few pounds can make a big difference. Every four pounds of weight lost removes 16 pounds of pressure from your spine. A healthy diet, combined with physical activity, can help keep you at an optimal weight and improve your overall health.
5. Get the care you need, when you need it.
You don’t have to suffer through back pain and miss out on your favorite activities. If you’re experiencing low back pain and can’t find relief, the friendly providers at MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care are here to help.
We can evaluate your low back pain and provide guidance on how to manage your specific symptoms. If additional care is needed, we’ll refer you to a specialist to help you get to the root of your pain.