"Oh My Aching Back!"
Back pain is one of the most common ailments in the world and men are a large part of the statistics. It affects men of all ages and backgrounds -- whether they do heavy physical labor, sit in a cubicle, or work in a restaurant. Back pain can be caused by simple strains or fatigue, and may occur during a working out, or while trying to stand from a sitting position.
The physical makeup of some men can actually further promote certain types of back pain. Tall men with lean bodies often experience lower back pain, and men who weigh between 165 - 220 lbs and have a history of heavy lifting may be more prone to strain.
Most back pain occurs in the lower back in an area called the Lumbar vertebrae. This area of the back, which is just the lower portion of the spinal column, looks like a series of circular bones stacked onto each other with rubbery cartilage disks in between. This column of bones anchors the weight of the body and allows you to twist in multiple directions. The points where bending or twisting occur are normally more vulnerable to strain.
What causes the back to become strained?
A number of things can contribute to a strained back, but three basic factors are usually present:
- The Strength of Your Back - Your posture is often a good indicator of how strong your back is. If your back is healthy, strain is less likely to occur. If, while standing, you have the condition called "swayback", your posture isn't at its best. Swayback is a condition where weak abdominal muscles allow the spine to sag forward.
Other conditions that can weaken the back: arthritis, stress, gout, obesity, abdominal surgery, or extended periods of time in bed.
- The Amount of Work Applied To the Back - Whether you're an experienced lifter, or someone who never lifts heavy objects -- there are restrictions on how much work you should ask your back to do. Too much pressure will likely result in strain or severe injury.
For those who workout regularly, exercise routines are excellent for strengthening the lower back. Standing-bends with light weight in each hand; stretching exercises; and hamstring stretches all help strengthen the muscles that help support the lower back. These types of physical therapy provide a means to help avoid recurrences of strain, and helps reduce the severity of future bouts with low back strain.
- The Way You Treat Your Back - Too much stress on the back can lead to various back strains. Stress and fatigue can weaken the muscles, making it easier to strain yourself during simple movements like getting into your car, or bending over to brush your teeth. Lack of sleep, lack of proper rest, and a faulty bed can also contribute to back problems.
To help prevent serious back injuries, follow these guidelines:
- Standing: Stand with your hips flexed. This can be accomplished by shifting your weight from side to side every few minutes. Even better, try placing one foot on a step or incline. This helps keep your back from sagging forward when standing still for extended periods of time.
- Lying down: Believe it or not, how you lie in bed can have a tremendous effect on the quality of your back's strength. If you suffer from chronic back pain and notice that you feel worse after a night's sleep, you should consider using another mattress or box spring. Often, dislodged wood sections in box springs cause mattresses to sink or dip in different spots. Lying in these spots causes the back to sag. Also, men should never sleep on their stomachs, or use a pillow with a high surface. Both conditions can cause swayback and neck strain.
- Sitting: How many times did your elementary school teacher have to tell you, "Sit up straight in your chair." Slouching increases the strain on your neck and back, and usually causes fatigue after only a few minutes. Use a firm chair and sit with your knees level or higher than your hips. If your chair doesn't allow for this, try placing your feet on a stool or crossing your legs to help raise your knees.
- Bending & Lifting: It is very important to bend and lift properly in order to keep from injuring yourself. Do not lean forward without bending the knees; lift heavy items from the ground by crouching towards the item, grabbing it and extending upwards using your legs; and do not lift heavy items above the level of your elbows.
Use these helpful tips to prevent painful back strains. If you experience chronic lower back pain, consider seeing an orthopaedic physician who can help you better understand your condition.