I missed the official date of World Spine Day - which has as its theme "Straighten Up".
So here are a few suggestions which would best be described as general guidelines, since once you develop a back problem a full assessment and consultation with a physiotherapist would be a good idea.
Since I frequently provide education sessions on low back problems here are a few ideas I often mention. These points are grounded in scientific evidence, but I have left out a lot of detail for this entry.
The Bone and Joint Decade is coming to a close shortly, so what better time to reflect on this topic?
1. Stay or get fit - look at walking 10000 steps per day as a start. Exercise in general is critical. Basically it keeps the joints healthy and of course improves maximizes heart and lung function. Most of us are slightly biased to our own special interest: Tai Chi, Yoga, Rowing, Kayaking, Aquatics, Swimming, Running... but it seems we are hard pressed to say one is better than another. The truth may be that some exercises and sports are better suited to one individual more than others. Why not do a combination?
2. Actively work your abdominals(and associated back stabilizers) throughout your day. Learn to tighten your abdominals - specifically the transversus abdominis(TrA)even when cutting vegetables, painting, waiting in grocery line. But don't stop there. Also practice the plank, mini squats or lunges, bridges to activate back muscles and key leg muscles. Work up to 20 reps X 3 sets. All these muscles play a role in stabilizing the back or lumbar spine.
3. Eat healthy - my old boxing coach always said "you are what you eat" - his actually phrasing was more like: if you eat crap, you are crap.
And this has turned out to be more true than he would ever have anticipated. Who could have predicted how much fat, chemicals and salt would be stuffed into fast foods, and even into restaurnant dishes we thought would be healthy.
4. Get plenty of sleep. This is the best time to heal, recuperate and regenerate. An associated study suggested that workers should watch how much overtime you do. The link presumably is that workers who are non stop on the job have little time for yoga, kayaking or running. All the good stuff. So given the choice - leave work on time.
5. Watch what you do and how you do it. Bending, stooping and twisting are high risk movements. Watch what time of the day you do them and limit the high risk movments in your exercise routine. If you have been doing yoga for 20 years you are at less risk than if you are just beginning. If doing the Sun Salutation for example, you may wish to avoid full toe touching first thing in the morning, especially if you are not going to be snow boarding or participating in an activity that requires that movement. Bend your knees when lifting loads from the floor - visualize you are an olympic weight lifter. And when transferring loads - pivot your feet.
6. Watch how you are sitting at the computer,or when driving. Quite often your leg position can impart stress to the back region. As a guideline in the car: your knee should be slightly higher than your hip when your foot is on the gas pedal.
7. Work on your posture - even when you are doing tasks around the house. The goal is what is described as - neutral spine position.