Health & Medical Pain Diseases

Bad Backs - 10 Tips to Better Back Health

Does your back ache after a long day at work? If so, you aren't alone in your misery.
Back injuries account for 1 out of 5 workplace injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While it is possible to injure your back by lifting incorrectly, carrying heavy boxes or turning the wrong way, more often back injuries develop slowly.
The most common cause of a bad back is related to how the bones are aligned (your posture), which in turn directly affects the health of the ligaments, and muscle tone, promoting balanced strength and flexibility.
The following tips will help you improve your posture and decrease muscle fatigue to keep you on your feet and ready for dancing! Tip #1 Stand in efficient alignment.
From the side view, the middle of the ear should line up with the middle of the shoulder, hip, knee and ankle.
The bones of the skeleton were designed to carry the weight of the body while the muscles create movement.
In poor alignment the muscles are asked to overwork, resulting in fatigue and strain.
Visualize your head and spine as a helium balloon tied with a string as you are standing and walking.
Let it pull you into an upright position.
Tip #2 Stretch your iliopsoas muscle.
The iliopsoas muscle is the major postural muscle and is commonly involved in back strain.
It is the deepest lower back muscle connecting from the spine through the pelvis and attaching to the top of the thigh.
It is commonly found to be overly tight in people with lower back problems.
You can stretch this muscle through a standing or sitting lunge position as shown.
Tip #3 Breathe deeply.
In cultures around the world the use of breath to reduce physiological stress is well documented.
Deliberately taking a deep breath oxygenates your muscles and encourages you to release tension you may be holding around the shoulder girdle and rib cage.
Tip #4 Spine health includes rotation.
The spine is composed of a series of small bones (vertebrae) that are stacked in gentle curves with discs between each vertebra that act as shock absorbers.
This where spinal movement takes place.
Most people spend way too much time in spinal flexion, as we slump in our chairs and slouch as we are standing.
Periodically sit on the edge of your chair, weight even on both sides of the pelvis, and spine long.
Rotate to one side and lightly hold the sides or back of the chair and gently encourage your spine to rotate easily as far as it can as you think of growing taller as you twist.
Tip #5 Stretch your calf muscles.
The calf muscles are in a line of muscles connected by fascia that run from the bottom of your feet to the base of your head.
Tension in any muscle group along the line will create strains upon the others.
Conversely, releasing tension in one of the muscle groups will take stress off the whole line.
It is easier to stretch your calf muscles in public than back muscles.
One quick and easy way to stretch the calf is behind a counter.
Place the ball of the foot on the bottom shelf of the counter (or against the wall).
Allow the weight of the body to gently drop through the heel.
Do this on each leg keeping the knee straight, and also barely bending the knee, which drops the focus of the stretch closer to the Achilles tendon.
Tip #6 Drink plenty of water.
The benefits of staying hydrated through drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day are well known.
Water is essential for digestion and absorption of nutrients, and helps keep your skin supple.
When the body is in need of liquid to keep essential organs, such as your heart and lungs, running smoothly, it will draw it from all less essential areas, such as your discs and joints.
Back strain has been lessened in some cases by simply increasing the amount of water taken in, and decreasing dehydrating beverages such as coffee and caffeinated sodas.
Tip #7 Strengthen your upper back.
The area between the shoulder blades is where most people slump.
Wake this area up by clasping your hands behind your back and lifting them 2-3 inches away from your body without lifting your shoulders.
You will feel the muscle contract between the shoulder blades.
Now release your hands but maintain the length of the upper back.
Tip #8 Stretch your upper back.
Stretching the upper back will decrease muscle strain and increase mobility.
Start by sitting comfortably on the front of a chair.
Let your head drop to the side, bringing your ear closer to your shoulder without lifting the shoulder.
Slowly roll your head forward bringing your chin closer to your chest before continuing to slowly roll your head to the other shoulder.
Do not let your head fall backward.
You are creating only a half circle with this stretch.
If more stretch is desired gently place a hand on your head and/or allow your upper spine to increase the range of half circle.
Tip #9 Develop core strength.
When abdominal and back muscles are toned and fit, they act to support the skeleton and improve your posture.
There are many different ways to actively strengthen your abdominals through sit-ups, Pilates, and other gym exercises.
When you're on your feet all day you need to train your abdominals to engage appropriately all the time, not just when doing strengthening exercises.
You can do this by first imagining your pelvis as a bowl, and making sure the front of the bowl is not tipping and allowing its abdominal contents to spill forward.
With the bowl evenly placed, slightly draw the abdominal muscles up towards your ribs and back towards the spine.
You will feel this action primarily below the belly button.
The focus is to have the abdominals engaged for support while allowing free movement of the ribs and diaphragm.
(After all you need to speak freely to your customers.
No invisible belts cinching the waist and lifting the ribs, please!) At first you will need to bring your attention to this small, yet powerful engagement of the deeper abdominal muscles but over time the pattern of usage will become more automatic.
Using your abdominals in this fashion on a daily basis, whether you are sitting or standing, will improve your abdominal strength as much if not more than doing sit-ups.
Tip #10 Change your stance.
Most people when standing tend to drop into one hip, or have their feet outside of their hips in what is affectionately called the 'Peter Pan' posture.
This wide stance tends to increase tightness in the muscles in the lateral hips and pelvis.
Try shifting to a stance where the feet are forward and back, similar to an open 4th position.
This will promote a better alignment of the body, and decreases muscle tension in your back and hips.
Improving your overall fitness through cardiovascular exercise while targeting these key areas can slowly and consistently improve back health.
Focus on a tip or two until it becomes a part of your normal routine before adding another activity in.
Your back will thank you for years to come!

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