Back to the Index

Low Back Pain

Low back pain (LBP) is a very common medical problem. There are many causes of LBP including injuries, diseases and degeneration. Poor posture accelerates degenerative changes of the spine hence proper posture is very important. Good posture helps to prevent injuries and unnecessary fatigue that can occur when the body is not in proper alignment. If you are suffering from LBP, evaluation by a doctor would help to identify specific pain source and lead to individual treatment plans. Do not use self-medication for extended periods of time as they may have adverse side effects, especially among the elderly who may get bleeding of the stomach from pain-killers.


Proper Posture and Care

The central portion of the back is composed of a bony spinal column surrounded by muscles and ligaments. Viewed from the side, the spinal column is "S" shaped. This should be maintained for effective functioning of the spine and minimal stress on the muscles and ligaments.

1. Standing

While standing, keep your body straight with ears, shoulders and hips vertically aligned. Your shoulders should not be rounded inwards or tilted forwards. Your hips should not be flexed or hyper-extended. Tuck your abdomen in. Make sure your chin is not held too high and your head is not dropping. Use your abdominal muscles to keep your chest lifted and your back supported.

2. Sitting

Sit with the back and thighs at a 90-degrees angle. Keep your back straight, your hips in a neutral position and feet flat on floor, or you can rest your feet on a chair or bench for stability. Keep your hips close to the back of the chair. Maintain the curve in your lumbar spine. You can use a lumbar support or a rolled up towel taped to the chair at the level of the low back. If possible, change position frequently, and avoid prolonged sitting. Use chairs that support the lower back with proper seat height and seat depth. Sitting in a slouched posture will hurt your back. In order to prevent frequent twisting of the back, a rotary chair can be used. Avoid prolonged cross-legged sitting. If you have to drive on a long trip, stop occasionally and get out of the car to stretch.

3. Lying

Sleep on a firm mattress to support your back. It should be about 2 inches thick, on a wooden board. If required, you can put a pillow or a rolled up towel under your knees when sleeping on your back. When sleeping on your side your knee should be bent, perhaps with a pillow between them. Use only one pillow for your head. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.

4. Daily activities

Bending the body forwards puts a lot of stress on the spine. In daily activities, it is important to protect your spine by always keeping it straight. Instead of bending the back, bend your knees. This applies when you are carrying a heavy load or even when merely tying your shoelaces or picking up small objects. After bending movements, stretch to maintain the natural curve of the spine.

5. Lifting and Transfer

Use the proper and safe method for lifting and maneuvering objects. For instance, if you have to lift a box from the floor and place it atop a table to your right, you should squat to lift the box, then stand up straight, and turn with your feet to place it on the table. Remember to hold objects close to the body as it puts less strain on the spine, and never twist your body when your back is bent.

While getting out of bed, turn to the side first. Put both feet on the floor, then get up by pushing both hands on the bed.

The reverse process should be used when lying down in bed.

6. Exercise

Appropriate exercise helps to maintain back health and general fitness. Through exercise, the strength and flexibility of the back can be maintained or improved. However, if the exercise is performed incorrectly, you may hurt your spine. Always remember to do warm-up exercise, and seek advice when in doubt.

The structure of the spine is very complicated and back pain can be difficult to cure. Therefore proper posture is very important in keeping the health of your spine. If you are suffering from back pain, you should seek advice from a doctor or physiotherapist for proper treatment and appropriate exercise to relieve the pain.

Back to the Index