Todd P Krell, MD
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthodoc.aaos.org/ToddKrellMD
Westfield Orthopedic Group
541 East Broad Street
Westfield, NJ 07090
Phone: (908)232-3879  | Fax: (908)232-5789
Copyright 2012 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Preventing Back Pain at Work and at Home

This article is also available in Spanish: Cómo prevenir el dolor de espalda en el trabajo y el hogarCómo prevenir el dolor de espalda en el trabajo y el hogar (topic.cfm?topic=A00467).

Almost everyone will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain varies from one person to the next. It can range from mild to severe, and can be short-lived or long-lasting.

Preventing all back pain may not be possible. We cannot avoid the normal wear and tear on our spines that goes along with aging. But there are things we can do to lessen the impact of low back problems.

Guidelines for Protecting Your Back

Having a healthy lifestyle is a good start to preventing back pain.

Exercise

Combine exercise, like walking or swimming, with specific exercises to keep the muscles in your back and abdomen strong and flexible.

Weight Loss

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts added pressure on your spine and lower back.

Avoid Smoking

Both the smoke and the nicotine cause your spine to age faster than normal.

Proper Posture

Good posture is important to avoiding low back problems. How you stand, sit, and lift things has an increasing effect on your spine health.

Guidelines for Proper Lifting
  • Plan ahead what you want to do and do not be in a hurry.
  • Position yourself close to the object you want to lift.
  • Separate your feet shoulder-width apart to give yourself a solid base of support.
  • Bend at the knees.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles.
  • Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up.
  • If an object is too heavy or is an awkward shape, do not try to lift it by yourself. Get help.

Picking Up a Light Object

To lift a very light object from the floor, such as a piece of paper, lean over the object, slightly bend one knee and extend the other leg behind you. Hold on to a nearby chair or table for support as you reach down to the object.

Picking Up a Heavy Object

Whether you are lifting a heavy laundry basket or a heavy box in your garage, remember to get close to the object, bend at the knees, and lift with your leg muscles. Do not bend at your waist.

When lifting luggage, stand alongside of the luggage, bend at your knees, grasp the handle and straighten up.

Holding An Object

While you are holding the object, keep your knees slightly bent to maintain your balance. If you have to move the object to one side, avoid twisting your body. Point your toes in the direction you want to move and pivot in that direction. Keep the object close to you when moving.

Placing an Object on a Shelf

If you must place an object on a shelf, move as close as possible to the shelf. Spread your feet in a wide stance, positioning one foot in front of the other to give you a solid base of support. Do not lean forward and do not fully extend your arms while holding the object in your hands.

If the shelf is chest high, move close to the shelf and place your feet apart and one foot forward. Lift the object chest high, keep your elbows at your side and position your hands so you can push the object up and on to the shelf. Remember to tighten your stomach muscles before lifting.

Supporting Your Back While Sitting

When sitting, keep your back in a normal, slightly arched position. Make sure your chair supports your lower back. Keep your head and shoulders erect. Make sure your working surface is at the proper height so you don't have to lean forward. Once an hour, if possible, stand, and stretch. Place your hands on your lower back and gently arch backward.

Last reviewed: March 2012
AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS "Find an Orthopaedist" program on this website.
Copyright 2012 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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Cómo prevenir el dolor de espalda en el trabajo y el hogar (http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00467)
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