Lift with your legs! How to avoid chronic back pain
I had the misfortune of developing rheumatoid arthritis as a youngster. By the time I was eight I was seeing doctors twice a week, by the time I was eleven I had my first surgery, and by the time I was thirteen I was on a daily battery of drugs and physical therapy to combat my body’s swelling and pain.
Part of rheumatoid arthritis is chronic back pain. Since the back is actually just a series of joints, it is one of the places that you’re most suceptible to arthritis – both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis – and you need to take care of it if you want to avoid a lifetime of chronic back pain.
There are some simple ways to avoid chronic back pain. First, always lift with your legs when moving something heavy. Sounds simple, right? It’s probably something you’ve heard a million times throughout your life – every time you put the new air conditioner in, every time you pick up a niece or nephew, every time you even pick up a case of beer – someone’s always there to say “lift with your legs.”
And it’s good advice. Your legs, unlike your back, are evolved to do work. Your back, on the other hand, is designed to protect your spine, which is the nerve center of your body. Put stress on your back that it doesn’t want, and it will punish you with chronic back pain.
So step one is to always lift with your legs. Your leg muscles can take it. Your back muscles can probably take it as well, but why test it? Do what nature’s developed you for.
Step two is… stop me if you’ve heard this one before… to stand up straight. And sit up straight. Your mom, or your grade school teacher, or your great aunt Lois were all correct when they told you to fix your posture. Keeping your spine straight will keep your muscles aligned and in balance, avoiding the knots and twists taht can cause chronic back pain. If it sounds simple that’s because it is simple. The vast majority of people who suffer from chronic back pain could have avoided their predicament if they’d only gone through life cognizant of their posture and just stood or sat up a bit straighter.
Another way to avoid chronic back pain is to make sure your mattress is supportive in the right places. A mattress that sags too much in the middle can lead to chronic back pain, since you’ll be twisting yourself to find a comfortable spot. A mattress that’s too firm can lead to chronic back pain as well. Nobody’s saying you have to break the bank on a new mattress, but if you do suffer from chronic back pain, your sleeping conditions can be a big reason why.