Back Pain Blog

Hot Tips to Avoid Low Back Pain

  • Always stretch before exercise or other strenuous physical activity.
  • Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
  • Sleep on your side to reduce any curve in your spine. Always sleep on a firm surface.
  • Don't try to lift objects too heavy for you. Lift with your knees, pull in your stomach muscles, and keep your head down and in line with your straight back. Keep the object close to your body. Do not twist when lifting.
  • Don't slouch! When standing, keep your weight balanced on your feet. Your back supports weight most easily when curvature is reduced.
  • At home or work, make sure your work surface is at a comfortable height for you.
  • Sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper position and height for the task. Keep your shoulders back. Switch sitting positions often and periodically walk around the office or gently stretch muscles to relieve tension. A pillow or rolled-up towel placed behind the small of your back can provide some lumbar support. If you must sit for a long period of time, rest your feet on a low stool or a stack of books.
  • Maintain proper nutrition and diet to reduce and prevent excessive weight, especially around the waistline that taxes lower back muscles.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine and causes the spinal discs to degenerate.
Source: National Institutes of Health

After the Baby: Regaining Abdominal Strength

By Karen Woodman, Obstetrics PT

The abdominal muscles aid in breathing, coughing, sneezing and bowel movements. They provide stability to the trunk and stabilize the spine during lifting. They also help you maintain good posture, so there are lots of important reasons to strengthen your stomach muscles!
During pregnancy, the abdominals are stretched, weaken and often separate (known as diastasis recti). When the muscles remain separated, they can't work efficiently and can contribute to low back and pelvic pain, and a flabby appearance, and can have long-term implications to your health. So, it is important to check for, and heal, a diastasis recti.
To check yourself for a diastasis recti:
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your fingers in the center of your belly just above or below the belly button.
  • Slowly lift your head and shoulders off the mat while feeling for a separation of the muscles. Check how many fingers you can insert horizontally into the gap between the belly muscles.
  • If you have a separation of 2 fingers or more at your six-week checkup, ask your doctor about a referral to a qualified physical therapist. Do not start an exercise program doing sit-ups or crunches without consulting with a physical therapist first, as these exercises may actually worsen an existing diastasis recti!
Source: APTA Section on Women's Health. Postpartum Recovery. Revised by Karen Woodman 3/1/2011.

Is Biofeedback For You?

by John A. Jerome, PhD

Biofeedback is a well researched pain self management technique in which you learn to control bodily functions, such as breathing rate and muscle tension, using your mind.  With biofeedback, you're connected to sensors that help you measure and receive information (feedback) about your body (bio).  The biofeedback sensors teach you how to recognize subtle changes in your body's tension, so that you learn to control muscle tension and respiratory rate to achieve the results you want, such as reducing pain and stress.
In essence, biofeedback gives you the power to use your thoughts to control your body, often to help with a health condition and to relax yourself and the tension pain causes.
Biofeedback appeals to patients for a variety of reasons: it is non invasive, it is a treatment alternative for those who are tired of taking muscle relaxers and sleep medications or who find themselves needing to take too much pain medicine. It helps people take charge of their health.  
You don't need special preparation for biofeedback.  However, you should discuss biofeedback first with your doctor to make sure it is a good option for you. Biofeedback is administered by a licensed psychologist or physical therapist as part of their overall pain management care program for you.  It can be included, for insurance purposes, as part of your physical therapy or pain psychology care.

Baby Body Mechanics: Protect Your Back!

By Karen Woodman, Obstetrics PT
Correct posture principles when caring for your baby:
  • Keep your back slightly arched and bend your knees when lifting your baby.
  • Before standing or lifting, pull in and lift your lower belly muscles, continuing to breath.
  • Hold your baby close to your body.
  • Try using support when carrying your baby (i.e. slings, Baby Bjorn, Snuggli, etc.).
  • Sit straight and tall when breastfeeding; do not lean down into the baby.
  • Support your baby during feedings with a pillow/Boppy.
  • Try alternate nursing positions (football hold, side lying, cradle, or cross cradle).
  • Carry only what's needed in your diaper baby, or better yet, use a backpack.
  • Use the stroller attachment for your car carrier instead of hauling it around.
  • Avoid pushing your hip out to hold and carry the baby. Instead try to carry Baby with weight balanced over both legs and the baby front and center.
Source: APTA Section on Womens Health Postpartum Recovery handout.