The other day I was doing the simple chore of loading my dishwasher. When I stood up, I yelled "ouch"! My lower back was in serious pain. It felt so strained and I couldn’t believe this was from just bending over for a short time. I have run half marathons and other events, and my back would hurt after climbing hills. That was understandable, but to experience pain by doing little things around my house bothered me. I know I am not alone because my husband also suffers from occasional back pain and even my daughter, who is an athlete, sometimes complains that her back hurts. I reached out to John Roberts, MD, from The Christ Hospital Joint & Spine Physician to get some tips to ease the pains in all of our backs.
The biggest thing Dr. Roberts told me was that the most common cause of low back pain is muscular sprain/strain. The best way to avoid this is with exercise! That seems like a no-brainer, but can still be a challenge for some people with busy lives. But taking the time for yourself is essential. I have to tell myself that all the time. Stretching is a huge help to avoid back pain. Tight hamstrings can affect your back. Dr. Roberts says “The hamstrings are the key to the back. In combination, the hamstrings are the most powerful muscles in the body, and it is always a tug-of-war between the hamstrings and the lumbar muscles, and the hamstrings usually win. Maintaining flexibility in the hamstrings is vitally important to maintaining a healthy back. They should always be stretched before or after physical endeavors and after any long periods of sitting such as long car trips.”
The Impact of Remote Work
Another big issue a lot of us are dealing with is the change in our work environment. I was working from home for a few months and I have friends that are still working from home today. A good workspace is very important to prevent back pain. I see pictures of adults and kids on their computers while in bed trying to type and work. Then they wonder why their neck and back hurt. Dr. Roberts says a good workstation is vital to the health of your back. He recommends having a good chair where your feet can rest on the floor and it should be a comfortable height for your hands and forearms. I had a friend who had to make a home office quickly last March. She said she was always so uncomfortable until she got a good chair that she could adjust. She told me that was key for her. The other thing is to get up and move! Dr. Roberts says you should get up and walk every 30 or 60 minutes.
When to Seek Medical Help
My mother had to have back surgery a few years ago and I saw what she went through beforehand. So of course, I always wonder when my back is extremely sore if it’s time for me to go see a doctor. Dr. Roberts eased my mind by suggesting gentle stretching, NSAIDs (like Advil or Aleve), and muscle relaxers. He also said that the time to seek medical help is when you experience severe or persistent lower back pain, any significant trauma such as a fall, sharp radiating nerve pain going down the lower extremity, severe loss of motion in the lumbar spine or a loss of any bowel or bladder control.
The bottom line is, now I know that I need to stretch and exercise more! With this advice, I am going to make this a family affair so that we are all pain-free and we can all do things like load the dishwasher with zero back pain. Learn more about back care or make an appointment with a Christ Hospital back and spine specialist.