By Kevin M. DuPrey, O.D.
Back pain is one of the most common problems I see as a sports doctor and is the number one reason causing a work disability. There are many causes of back pain, but the most common are muscle tensions / spasms and hernias (swelling) that can cause pain in the buttocks or leg when the surrounding nerve is irritated. Here are some tips for keeping your back healthy.
Strengthen your core
You use your trunk muscles to stabilize yourself – not only at the effort but constantly. They keep you from falling when you sit here reading this blog. They include not only your "six-stick muscles", but also the many muscle groups that surround the trunk, lower back, hips and pelvis. There are many exercises that you can do to strengthen your core that can be learned from a physical therapist, a personal trainer or the internet. Some basic and safe start exercises include "6 inches" where you stand on your back and raise your feet 6 inches above the ground then hold on. Another exercise is called the "board", which involves lying on your stomach, pushing you on the elbows and toes, and then maintaining that position. The current world record for "planking" is 8 hours and 1 minute. But please, start with 30 seconds, and accumulate from there.
Lose the bowel
It is not always easy to maintain a healthy weight, but it can help keep your back healthy. Extra weight increases stress and pressure on the lower back can predispose you to injury. A gradual weight loss through a balanced and healthy diet and regular exercise are always recommended compared to crash diets – which tend to be temporary.
Having tense muscles, especially the hamstrings, which go from the pelvis to the back of the thigh up to the knee, can increase the risk of back injuries. A simple stretch for both the lower back and the hamstrings is to bend to touch (or try to touch) your toes for 30 seconds.
Lift with your knees
Stop lifting with your back! We've all heard this one before, but it's hard to break old habits. Most herniated discs occur when you bend, lift, and twist. It is especially important to bend over your knees rather than your back when lifting to reduce stress on your back.
I hope these tips will help you and your back to stay happy, healthy and do everything you love, like showing off your boarding skills.
About the author
Dr. DuPrey specializes in sports medicine and enjoys working with patients of all ages and abilities to enable them to resume activities that they enjoy in the safest and most effective way. His holistic approach is to look at the whole situation and help prevent future injuries.
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