Back Care Program

Background Information

The back supports the upper body, protects the spinal cord and allows the body flexibility. The back has four natural curves at the neck, the middle back, the lower back and the tailbone. These curves support your weight and absorb stress. The spine contains 24 hard bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are separated by cushions called discs that absorb shock when you move. Fluid inside the discs allows you to move freely. Too much of the wrong type of movement can cause abnormal wear and tear which can lead to back injuries.

Back pain is not uncommon for many people. In fact more then 80% of adults experience back pain but the more serious conditions are less common. Generally when back pain occurs recovery can be two to six weeks if the person remains active. Even if back pain is occurring, low impact activity that des not cause further back stress or strain may be beneficial. Good examples of light exercise are walking, swimming or riding an exercise bike.

Activity is good for your back because it:

  • Develops, stretches & strengthens muscles and joints
  • Maintains & increases your flexibility
  • Prevents your joints from seizing up
  • Assists in developing stronger bones
  • Keeps your heart and lungs healthy
  • Reduces pain by releasing natural chemicals such as endorphins

Back Pain and Risk Factors

Back Pain Factors

  • Poor posture
  • Slips and falls
  • Un-natural movements
  • Carrying or lifting excessive weight
  • Stress – physical or mental
  • Overexertion
  • Lack of exercise
  • Medical factors  

Back Pain - Assessing Your Risk

  • The heavier the load, the greater the risk to the back.
  • If twisting movement is involved in lifting a heavy load, abnormal stress will be placed on the back.
  • Jobs with a vibration element, like driving a truck or heavy vehicles, seem to predispose individual to back problems.
  • Conversely, jobs that do not have a lot of movement in them, like driving a car or sitting at a workstation for prolonged periods, have the same predisposition for back problems.
  • Jobs that have abnormal postures that create excessive muscular action or static loading also carry a risk factor.
  • Situations where a weight shifts suddenly while being lifted can also create problems (e.g., an ambulance attendants work)

Back Injury Symptoms

Symptoms of back pain can vary greatly depending on the injury and the individual but can include:

  • Pain, tightness or stiffness
  • Spasms
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Numbness, tingling or burning into the legs
  • Limited ability to sit or stand  

Back Safety Tips - Prevent Pain, Strain or Injury

There are many things we can do to take care of our backs and prevent problems that arise from injury, pain and strain. A few general tips that may prevent problems include:

  • Being active and enjoying regular exercise such as walking or swimming.
  • Maintaining posture.
  • Standing up tall but maintaining a relaxed manner.
  • When sitting, choose a chair that provides support for your lower back.
  • Think about your movements before you lift or twist.
  • Keep your abdominal muscles strong.
  • Avoid weight gain.  

Additional Tips

Resources

  • Back Active

 

 

Contact Us

Organizational Health and Effectiveness
Phone:
780-492-2249
Fax: 780-492-0798
E-mail: org.health@ualberta.ca

 

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