While we are well-equipped here at Tulsa Spine and Rehab for whenever a patient experiences low back pain, it would be even better to avoid it from occurring in the first place. Here are three easy tips anybody can follow to prevent low back pain. (Keep in mind, these tips are for healthy people with no trauma, injury, or preexisting back issues). These are preventative tips, and we recommend that anybody who is already experiencing low back pain visit a qualified professional to assess their issue.
Pay attention to your sleeping environment.
It’s extremely common to wake up in the morning with discomfort or pain. This is entirely preventable by paying attention to your mattress setup and sleeping habits. It is very important to stay off of your stomach and instead sleep on your side or back. Take some of the pressure off of your back by placing an extra pillow for support underneath your knees. While lying on your side, keep your knees bent at a 45 degree angle (and perhaps put an extra pillow in between your knees).
Keep your head as neutral as possible, with the same positioning as if you were seated comfortably. Patients will often use feather pillows or ergonomic foam pillows, but these usually put them into lateral flexion. To remain neutral, we recommend buying a firm queen or king size pillow. These will keep you relatively neutral while taking some pressure off the neck as well.
As for the mattress, there isn’t one kind that we recommend over the others. However, it’s a good idea to stay away from pillow top mattresses. While they may be very comfortable in the showroom, they quickly start to break down with regular use, often developing an uncomfortable crater. These sagging craters will lead to increased irritation and stress on the joints. Firm mattresses or memory foam mattresses (e.g., Tempur-Pedic) are very good and long-lasting, but they are also fairly expensive.
Stand up in regular intervals.
Many of us sit behind a desk for most of the day. We’re told almost nonstop about proper posture, ergonomics, and chair setup. Along with that, it’s crucial to get up and move around every 15 minutes or so. This is probably the most important step you can take to prevent low back pain from occurring.
First of all, getting up cues our brain to get into a better position once we sit down again. Second, it provides decompression by interrupting the load on the low back. Think about how we get closer to our desks as gravity takes over. If you were to observe your posture, you would likely see yourself with shoulders hunched, head down, and flexing throughout the mid back. No matter how good your ergonomic setup is, it’s still very difficult to maintain static posture for hours on end.
Another option is to simply set a recurring timer. Either way, the goal is to get up for around 30 seconds and move around. (There’s no need to upset your boss by walking around the entire office for 15 minutes.) Many people are surprised by how much better they feel by interrupting their sitting regularly throughout the day.
Work on hip and mid-thoracic flexibility.
Simple mobility exercises that target the mid mid-thoracic spine (mid back) and hips go a long way towards preventing back pain. Stretching these areas will increase mobility, hopefully removing some of the stress and compensation from the low back.
Take a look at our exercise videos that improve mobility in these areas, or learn some good, safe stretching drills.
By following these three tips, you’ll be able to tackle low back pain before it even starts. Remember, these are preventative measures. If you are already experiencing low back pain, it is important to get proper care by trained professionals.
If you would like to learn more about how to prevent low back pain, or if you are already experiencing low back pain and need to get it checked, contact us today or give us a call at (918) 743-3737.