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To Your Health

Time to Save... Your Back

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08/01/2010 - The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that eight out of ten Americans will suffer back pain at some point in their lives as a result of experiencing a "back attack."

Lifting and moving children (or boxes or furniture), gardening in a stooped position, shoveling (snow, dirt, or rocks), improper bending at the waist, twisting at the waist, or just relaxing in your favorite over-stuffed chair slouched over the remote, you are at risk for straining, spraining, or otherwise encouraging a pain in your back.

Preventing a back injury is much easier than fixing one. Most back pain comes from using your back improperly. So how do we prevent a potentially life-long back problem? It really comes down to three simple points: good positioning, good posture, and good health.

Positioning includes body mechanics - how you lift, as well as body position – straight, bent, twisted (still talking about backs, here). When lifting something, we have all heard about bending at the knees and not the waist. The reason is basic physics, if there is such a thing about physics. Anyway, when a person bends at the waist to pick up an object, regardless of the weight of the object, it increases the load factor on the lower back ten (10) times. In other words, to pick up a 25-pound object (like your child) while bent at the waist, that 25-pound weight becomes equivalent to 250 pounds to your lower back. That is in addition to your own weight that must also be supported in that awkward position. It gets more dangerous if that object (child) happens to be moving toward or away from you while attempting to grab and lift.

Then take that now 250-pound load factor and put a little "twisty" move into it to turn or change directions and we have disc pulverization occurring. Over time with such abuse, the back decides it has had enough and something goes painfully wrong. Also, recognize your lifting limitations. If you can't lift it, you won't lift it. You'll just pay for trying.

Good posture includes standing and sitting in a manner that keeps your spinal column – that bone ridge up the middle of your back – in its naturally-curved yet straight state. Your back is designed to maintain its natural curve while remaining parallel to your body. Alter that posture and you increase your odds for messing something up. Small children do good until they get old enough to think slouching is more comfortable. From that point on, it becomes a battle.

And, I couldn't leave this subject without addressing good health. Carrying extra weight (yep, me, too), not having a regular exercise routine (yep, me, too), or not doing some stretching to loosen up those muscles before working them will lead to disaster.

Set the example for your family. Your kids learn from watching you so it's not just "all about you." When it comes to your back, avoid life-long regrets. Do your part to stay safe at home.

Randy DeVaul (safetypro@roadrunner.com) is a safety professional and emergency response instructor, author, and writer. Comments are always welcome.

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