By Jennifer Morales, MD
Proper body mechanics are key when it comes to overall health of the spine and reducing the amount of wear and tear. To ensure you stay up and moving, consider these tips.
- Bend at the knees and hips, not at the waist.
- Hold loads close to your body. When lifting, use your legs and tighten your abdominal muscles. Try to keep your spine as straight as possible.
- Don’t twist your spine. Face the load when you’re lifting. Bending while twisting your back causes the most strain and pressure on your lumbar discs.
- Know your body and strength, and know when to take breaks. Don’t lift loads that are too heavy for you.
Equally as important is to maintain a proper aerobic exercise regimen. This can be tricky because a lot of aerobic routines are impact exercises that can worsen spine pain. Any sort of aquatic therapy is a great alternative. In addition, I always recommend a stationary bicycle or the use of an elliptical, which limits the amount of impact on joints.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly. The recommendation is to break this up throughout the week. It also recommends strength training for muscle groups at least twice a week, 12-15 repetitions. Strength training is often overlooked or not stressed enough. This is very important especially in the elderly population or postmenopausal women as it helps to promote bone health and strength, therefore reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Just remember to be mindful of the spine and make sure your back and neck area is always supported. Avoid any flexion/extension exercises. For example, in lieu of crunches try abdominal planks, which provide strength training but limits wear and tear on the spine.