Workouts a pain in the...back?

What a pain in the...back! Two-thirds of adults will have lower back pain some time in their lives. The pain is usually caused by overuse and muscle strain or injury that creates an imbalance in the spine. As a result, constant tension on the muscles makes you more susceptible to pain and injury.

Men have a greater risk for lower back problems. If you are a middle-aged man, you have an even greater risk. These risk factors are beyond your control - sorry guys!

But there are some risk factors that you can do something about:

• Lack of regular exercise

• Job and/or other activities that require:
- long periods of sitting
- lifting heavy objects
- repetitive motions
- constant use of machinery that vibrates or driving certain types of heavy equipment

• Being overweight. Additional body weight causes additional back strain.

• Poor posture. While poor posture has not been shown to cause lower back pain, once the back has been strained or injured, poor posture can make symptoms worse.

• Ever notice that your back pain is much worse when you're stressed? Many people unconsciously tighten their back muscles when they are stressed.

Functional training can help eliminate lower back pain or reduce the risk of injuring your lower back. Functional training simply means training your core muscles in a manner similar to the way they are used every day. The core muscles include all the muscles of the trunk, including the abdominals, chest, upper and lower back and shoulders.

While I am quite certain that your regular fitness program includes exercises for the abs, chest, upper back and shoulders, most people forget about the lower back muscles during their workouts. This is key to keeping those aches and pains away.

Stretching and strengthening exercises keep the muscles strong, keep your body flexible and reduce your risk of lower back problems. Cardio exercises, such as walking or swimming, keep the back strong and provide nutrients to the muscles to keep them healthy. Exercise also helps reduce your risk of future injuries.

Believe it or not, bed rest is not the best thing for you. Studies show that resting does not relieve pain any better than staying active - but rather can result in stiffness and decreased function. Of course, you do have to use common sense and avoid activities that are painful. You may also have to slow it down a bit until your back heals.

If you already suffer from lower back pain, please consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Here are eight tips for keeping your back healthy.

1. Always use your legs to lift an object. Bend your knees, not your hips to avoid straining the lower back.

2. Keep objects as close to your body as possible as you lift and carry.

3. Push rather than pull objects to move them. If you must pull something, keep your back straight not rounded.

4. Get down! Whether you're moving something low or working on a low surface, get down to the same level.

5. Even the load. When carrying items, balance them on both sides - don’t carry everything on one side. For example, carry a backpack instead of a briefcase that hangs from one arm or shoulder to evenly distribute the load and avoid imbalance.

6. Be conscious of your posture. Whether you stand or sit at a desk all day, stand or sit tall, shoulders back with your head up.

7. If you sit for long periods of time during the day, get up every 45–60 minutes and take a walk and stretch to relieve the tension.

8. Stretch!

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