Rules for Keeping Your Lower Back and Spine Healthy

Many of the spinal injuries that I treat are completely preventable. I thought before we all get started on the upcoming Labor Day weekend, a few healthy spine rules are in order.

1. Avoid bending from your waist only. When bending forward, always use your hips and knees. It's very easy to strain the lower back muscles when bending forward especially when you are involved in a repetitive activity. The lower lumbar spinal muscles are not designed for much flexion. The hip joint is designed for forward flexion.

2. Avoid lifting heavy objects higher than your waist. Never lift a heavy object by using just your lower back. Always bend your knees.

3. Always turn and face the object you wish to lift. If your feet aren't facing the object, you aren't in the proper position. Rotating at the waist with an object in your hands without moving your feet is a prescription for disaster.

4. Avoid carrying unbalanced loads. This causes too much muscular strain especially over long distances.

5. Hold heavy objects close to your body. Holding objects away from your body greatly increases the pounds per square inch pressure on the lumbar discs. This is a great way to herniate a lumbar disc!!!

6. Never carry or move anything which you cannot handle with ease. Don't rearrange the living room furniture by yourself!!

7. Avoid sudden movements. Learn to move deliberately. Especially first thing in the morning.

8. Change positions frequently. Get up from your desk, workbench, drafting table and/or computer regularly throughout the day. Also, when flying, get up frequently and walk around the plane. Do not drive for long distances without stopping. Stop and stretch every 100-150 miles.

9. When mopping, vacuuming, raking, hoeing, etc., always work with the tool close to the body. Never use giant steps or long reaches when performing these activities.

10. Sit down to dress!! When putting on your shoes and socks, don't bend from the waist while balancing on one foot.

11. Women should wear low heels. Take those high heels off when dancing at a wedding, formal party, etc.

12. Avoid exercise and activities which arch or strain the lower back. Put simply, it is not wise to perform backward bends or to bend forward to touch your toes.

13. When you cough or sneeze, round your back and bend your knees slightly.

14. When making a bed, do so from a kneeling position.

15. If you have had prior lower back injuries, always wear a back brace when performing heavy lifting or repetitive bending and lifting activities.

If you learn and follow these rules, you will save yourselves many injuries throughout your lifetime.