Top Five Tips: Prevent Back Muscle Strains

Back muscle strains are common among athletes, but can also occur due to everyday activities. These simple tips can keep an average task from taking you out of the game.


Back pain is one of the most common reasons why Americans seeks medical attention. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 21.9 million people visited their doctor complaining of back pain in 2007, and 4.8 million of those people ended up in the emergency room due to problems with their back. Athletes can experience back pain as a result of strains induced by participating in sports, however you don’t have to be an athlete to injure your back.

“Most of us have heard ‘lift with your legs not your back,’ but sometimes people don’t know what that means,” Dr. Arya Nick Shamie, orthopaedic surgeon and spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), said in a press release. “When lifting, keep your chest facing the object at all times, use your thigh muscles to boost you up and forward. Keep the object close to your body; the farther away the object, the more weight it exerts on your spine.

The AAOS has several tips to help people avoid the types of strain that can land you in the doctors office and keep you off the playing field.

Know your limits – it is important to know how much you can lift or support to avoid straining your back by trying to exude too much force. Don’t move large or awkwardly shaped objects by yourself. Ask for help even if the object is light enough for one person to carry.

Bend at the knees – good form is as important when you are lifting a heavy object as it is on the playing field. Separate your feet, shoulder-width apart, and bend at the knees while tightening the stomach muscles to give your body the support it needs to lift. Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up, and do not bend at the waist.

Give yourself support – even the act of relaxing, while sitting down, can cause strain on your back. When you sit, keep your back in a normal arched position. Only sit in chairs that provide support for your lower back, and make sure that if you are working at a table or desk that it is aligned properly with your chair so you do not have to hunch or lean excessively.

Hold on tight – when holding an object, be it a basketball or a laundry basket; keep your knees slightly bent to help you keep your balance. If you move from side to side, do not twist your body, point your toes in the direction in which you want to move and pivot in your intended direction. Keep objects close to your body as you move. Be aware of your surroundings to help you avoid tripping over obstacles.

Don’t overload – never carry so many items at once that they impede your vision or throw off your balance. Use small containers to hold heavy items. If you think that something is to heavy for you to lift on your own, don’t try. Ask a friend to help or leave the job to professionals who are trained to lift heavy objects properly.

“If you struggle to get the item off the ground to a standing position, it’s very important to ask for assistance at that very moment instead of overdoing it on your own,” says Shamie.
-Erin Podolak

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