Avoiding Back Pain: ‘Back to Exercise’

Back pain can be easily caused by attempting to move heavy objects, and back pain can be exacerbated by emotional stress and long periods of inactivity.

Man lifting box--animated.

Trying to move an immovable object is the number one cause of back problems in the United States. It encourages you to push, pull, twist, bend, lift, and strain the wrong way. Even an unexpected awkward turn can be the onset of low back pain, and people who are in poor physical condition or perform work that requires long periods of sitting or standing are at greater risk for back problems. These people also recover more slowly. And the more time you spend in front of the TV or computer, the more you must do to prevent back pain, say experts. Emotional stress or long periods of inactivity may make back symptoms seem worse, but good posture and body mechanics will ultimately reduce the stress on your back.

To reduce the incidence of self-inflicted back problems:

  • Be careful. Learn to lift and lean properly. Avoid positions that cause sudden, quick or jerky movements.
  • Exercise. Strengthening the muscles of the back and abdomen helps to minimize the frequency, and possibly the severity, of future incidents.
  • Lose weight. If you are more than 10 percent over your ideal body weight, you can reduce further incidents by losing weight through dietary restriction of calories and aerobic exercise, as prescribed by your personal physician.

Source: Carol Lewis, a writer in FDA’s Office of Consumer Affairs.

FDA Consumer magazine (March-April 1998)

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