Most adults experience back pain at some point, and lifting is a leading cause of strain. Exercising proper lifting techniques can prevent back strain, but avoiding lifting heavy objects is sometimes best. Often the discomfort will go away on its own. However, long-term worsening pain may require a spine specialist in Grapevine, TX that patients can depend on. In severe cases, procedures such as cervical fusion or disc replacement may be necessary.
Your priority, however, should be to prevent back strain in the first place. First, it may be helpful to learn the origins of preventable back pain, the symptoms, and any risk factors that can increase your need for spine specialists in Dallas, Fort Worth, or anywhere in Texas.
What Is Preventable Back Pain
Pain is often due to tight, tense muscles, a lack of strength, or muscle fatigue. Muscle tissue is strained and damaged by sudden, strenuous movement or a task you are not used to. Nerve damage can cause pain as well. Although not as common as muscle pain, nerve pain may result from an injured disc, which puts pressure on nerves branching out from the spinal cord.
Excessive twisting and overexertion can damage back ligaments. An irritated facet joint can cause muscle spasms, while anything from sudden movements to an awkward posture can strain spinal joints. A bulging or ruptured disc requires immediate attention by a spine surgeon in Texas. Conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis can increase your risk of injury or exacerbate the problem.
- Dull ache, soreness, or tightness
- Pain intensifies with movement
- Localized pain in the lower back, hips, or buttocks
- Difficulty walking or standing
- Tender and inflamed areas
- Pain lessens with rest or by reclining
If you feel a hot, tingling pain or an electric sensation, the problem is likely an irritated nerve root. With sciatica, the pain can travel down the nerves of the legs. Pain is often triggered by muscle spasms. As muscle fibers abruptly contract, they pinch the nerves that intertwine with them, causing intense back pain.
Back Injury Prevention Tips
Being that improper lifting1 is one of the most common risk factors for back strain and pain, here are five tips to help you prevent back injury and the need for Texas spine and joint care:
- Practice Safe Lifting Techniques
Proper bending and lifting help avoid injury and a visit to, for example, the Texas Back Institute. Lift an object by bending at the knees (bending at the waist puts excess strain on lower back muscles) and spread your feet apart (increasing your support base). Standing as close to it as possible, lift the item using your leg muscles. Also, keep your stomach muscles tight for support when lifting or lowering anything.
OSHA’s safe lifting techniques2 are as follows:
- Planning: Determine if there are obstacles to clear, the load needs to be reduced, or a material handling device is necessary, and when to rest.
- Sizing: Lift an object at the corner to test its weight and ensure it’s balanced; if you can’t handle the load, use a material handling device.
- Establish your base: Spread your feet to shoulder width and stabilize your gait by placing one foot ahead of the other while holding the load close to your body.
- Keep a firm grip: Grip the object with your palms and make sure your hold is firm before lifting or moving it.
- Be steady: Control the lift using your legs and feet and with your head/shoulders up and stomach muscles tight; avoid twisting or sudden motions.
Stretching is an important technique for protecting your back. In addition to the back muscles, focus on supporting muscle groups in your stomach, arms, and legs. By loosening your hamstrings, you can maximize pelvic motion and protect your lower back. Focus on strengthening hip and leg muscles, especially if they’re weak or you are recovering from a back injury.
Common stretches include knees to chest while lying flat on your back, and lifting your chest off the floor with your arms while lying on your stomach. Other stretches can be performed while in a cat and dog position, sitting down, or standing up. Side leg lifts and pelvic tilts can help as well. The techniques outlined in the OSHA back injury prevention materials help reduce back strain while lifting.
Each stretch should yield mild tension, but no pain, numbness, or tingling. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, and repeat each activity 3-5 times to abate any muscle tightness.
- Care with Repetitive Motion
For our spine team, Texas patients frequently show signs of repetitive motion injury caused by stressed muscles and joints. Such motions may occur every few seconds during an eight-hour shift and increase the likelihood of needing a Southlake orthopedics specialist. The risks depend on the frequency of the straining activity, how fast you move, and how many muscles are needed to complete the task. Posture and the amount of force needed to lift or move an object are also factors.
It is possible, however, to reduce the chances of injury. Handcarts, dollies, skid loaders, and lift trucks should be used to move heavy loads, rather than transporting them manually. If possible, alternate tasks, so you can switch muscle groups and engage in different motions and postures. This gives some muscle groups a rest and prevents improper lifting injuries. Also, do stretching exercises whenever you have a break.
- Health Habits
Proper posture is one of the best ways to avoid back strain. When lifting, do not bend forward or twist your body. Body posture controls the use and amount of forces on different muscles and joints. Awkward postures can be reduced, even at work, by changing the height from which you handle an item. Your back should be in a standing neutral position, with the spine in its natural S-curve.
Another good idea is to store materials at waist level (avoiding the need to bend while lifting)—but you shouldn’t need to reach over to lift the workload, either. Overexertion can be prevented with material handling devices, pushing rather than lifting, dividing up loads, and obtaining assistance from a coworker. It’s also important to reduce fatigue caused by using the same muscles or motions repeatedly.
Concentrate on your overall health since these same habits also benefit your lumbar spine, as our South Texas spinal clinic can attest to:
- Stay hydrated with water.
- Minimize alcohol consumption.
- Avoid smoking and nicotine.
- Consume fewer inflammatory foods.
- Get enough sleep to restore damaged tissues.
Preventative treatment, including exercise, medication, and calcium and vitamin D, are also recommended by our Texas spine institute.
- Travel with Care
You can prevent back strain and existing injuries from getting worse by taking care when traveling. Lifting is often involved with travel. Heavy luggage should be handled in the same way as lifting and carrying work items. It should also be loaded in stages; for example, lift a suitcase from the floor to a chair/stool, and then into the trunk.
If you’re sitting for a long period of time, bring a lumbar support pillow or an inflatable travel pillow for your neck and head. Your feet should be placed on a firm surface to reduce lower back strain. Try to get up and stretch every 20 to 30 minutes (especially the hamstrings), and check on your posture from time to time to make sure your back is properly aligned.
These techniques will reduce the risks of back strain when traveling and when you need to lift a heavy item later.
How to Relieve Back Strain
- Medications: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines (i.e., aspirin, ibuprofen) and pain medicines such as acetaminophen can help. Prescription muscle relaxants may, as well.
- Cold/heat packs: An ice pack applied for 10- to 20-minutes at a time can relieve inflammation after a muscle injury.3 Heat packs help increase circulation, relieve tension, and speed up healing.
- Walking: A 3- to 5-minute walk can alleviate the stiffness in your lower back. This helps you stay active and contributes to the normal spinal function and health.
- Massage: Increases circulation, relaxes muscles, and releases endorphins, which reduce pain signals. Massage therapy can also increase your range of motion.
- Modified activity: If you’re injured or experiencing back pain, lifting with your back injury is a bad idea. Rest when necessary, although prolonged rest periods can increase stiffness and decondition your back muscles.
Avoid jogging, contact sports, dancing, weight lifting, and situps and other strenuous activities unless a medical professional says it’s okay. At any time, it’s important to know how to protect your back while lifting weights.
If the problem is caused by serious structural problems, a neck fusion or cervical fusion surgery may be done. A Frisco spinal rehab may be recommended, whether you have surgery or are recovering from a strain or injury. Procedures include Anterior Cervical Discectomy Fusion and Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion. At 360 Back and Spine Center, we also treat vertebral compression fractures and conduct minimally invasive techniques.
Statistics on Back Pain
About 61% of Americans regularly have lower back pain, according to a survey by the American Physical Therapy Association, while 69% of respondents said it affects their lives on a daily basis.4 Nearly a quarter say work is affected and even more reported impacts on sleep and exercise. About 4 in 10 individuals with a back issue never seek medical attention.
The American Chiropractic Association has said 31 million people in the U.S. experience lower back pain at some point.5 It estimates 80% of the population will have a back problem during life, and most of the time the pain has mechanical origins and is not caused by disease. In fact, the single leading cause of disability in the world is low back pain.6 Also, about 1 in 5 workplace injuries involve the back,7 so safe lifting practices should always be considered.
Seek Treatment at 360 Back and Spine Center
Top providers such as the Laser Spine Institute, Texas and Texas Back Institute, Plano are known for great care. We offer nothing less. If your back pain is severe, come to us for a consultation. A qualified and experienced spine surgeon in Texas can recommend the best course of treatment. From lumbar spinal fusion to treating sacroiliac joint disease, to various other surgical and non-surgical interventions, our team is prepared to help.
Led by orthopedic surgeon Melanie B. Kinchen, MD, PA, our team specializes in cervical and lumbar fusions, disc replacement, micro disc surgery, scoliosis treatment, laser surgery, and tumor removal. For information about how we can help, chat with us online or call our Grapevine office at 682-223-1406 or our Fort Worth location at 682-808-4392 today.