Reducing Your Risk of Low Back Pain and Sciatica
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You can reduce your risk of developing low back pain and sciatica by reducing the stress on your back. Guidelines for reducing stress on your back include:
- Support your back when lifting, standing, and sitting.
- Practice good posture.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Exercise regularly.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Manage stress.
- Do not lift heavy objects alone.
- Plan ahead and ask for assistance with lifting or moving heavy objects.
- When lifting, squat down next to the object, hold the object close to your chest, maintain a straight back, and use your leg muscles to slowly rise.
- Do not bend or twist your back.
- Avoid sitting for long periods. When you do sit, choose seats with good lumbar support, and use a footstool to raise your knees to hip level.
- Avoid standing for long periods. If you need to stand, place a low footstool in front of you and alternate placing each foot on it for a period of time. This will take some of the load off your back.
- Do not drive for long periods. Take a break every hour to stop, get out of the car, and stretch your back.
Poor posture and slouching can put pressure on your lower back. Stand and sit straight, and avoid sitting up in bed. If possible, find an ergonomic specialist to help teach you good posture and body mechanics, as well as help you redesign your workplace to reduce strain on your back.
Extra pounds increase pressure on the spinal muscles and disks. Follow the dietary and exercise plan recommended by your doctor. To lose weight you have to consume fewer calories than you expend. To maintain a healthy weight, eat an equal number of calories to those you expend.
An aerobic program will improve your physical fitness, strengthen your back muscles, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Choose exercises or activities that you enjoy and will make a regular part of your day. For most people, this could include walking or participating in another aerobic activity for 30 minutes per day. Exercise also can help you manage stress. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Smoking causes degeneration of the discs in the spine. Smokers risk possible re-injury to the back during a coughing attack.
Stress can increase muscle tension. Take time out to relax, exercise, and practice relaxation techniques. If you need support or assistance in reducing stress, you may want to try some of the following techniques:
- Stress management classes
- Relaxation techniques
- Breathing exercises
Conn's Current Therapy 2001 . 53rd edition. W.B. Saunders Company; 2001.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/ .
Textbook of Primary Care Medicine . 3rd edition. Mosby, Inc.; 2001.
Last reviewed February 2007 by Barbara Harty-Golder, MD, JD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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