By Lori Okami
With a recent injury, I am reminded of back vulnerability with various forms of exercise, as well as ways to protect ourselves even in everyday activities.
With all of my heavy lifting over the many years, I'm happy to say that I've avoided major injuries. Sure, there have been minor ones on occasion but nothing severe or recurring. I will say though that I do find myself much more susceptible as I age.
With that said, here are a few ways to spare yourself the pain, discomfort and hassle of back injuries.
- First and foremost, keep your back, core and legs strong. I am certain that this has protected me from injury in the past and helped me recover more quickly over the years. Yes, it's not only about strengthening your back. Weak core and legs can make you more vulnerable to back injury.
- Keep good form. This applies to working out as well as just moving, turning and lifting things around the house. What does "good form" mean?
a) Maintain good posture--whether sitting or standing, keep your core engaged. The muscles of your back and abdominal section are what support your spine. Use them!
b) Stay in alignment. Your greatest strength and lowest risk occur by keeping movements in a straight line with your base versus reaching out further
c) Engage your core when lifting or reaching
d) When lifting, shift the weight burden to your legs rather than bearing the load all on your back or upper body
e) While twisting is a natural movement, avoid excessive twisting movements especially with additional weight and while reaching
- Use equipment, aids and accessories wisely. Be smart and don't work harder than you need to. Here are a few examples:
a) If you have a handtruck available, use it rather than carrying heavy boxes individually
b) Weight belts or wraps can be useful to help engage your core, not only for heavy lifting but even in lighter routine lifting
c) Comfortable and correct footwear can make a significant difference -- whether lifting, running or playing sports
4. Proceed cautiously with physical exertion. Whether we are talking about sudden movements or deciding to do something physical that you haven't done before, easing into physical exertion is often advisable. This becomes more of a rule than a recommendation if you are past 40--speaking from experience. I learned this the hard way last weekend when I decided to run and another time when I suddenly shifted into competition form while bench pressing. Both proved to be hasty decisions which I paid dearly for.
5. Lastly, stay healthy. A healthy body overall is much less prone to illness and injury. This means exercising regularly (cardio, strength, balance & flexibility), staying well nourished, resting, managing stress, keeping hydrated, etc.
*** I invite you to visit my website www.lifefitnet.com and participate in a short online survey that should take only 2-3 minutes to complete. No one’s personal, individual data is ever shared and the aggregated information is used to Build a Healthy Hawaii and better understand individual needs and preferences related to establishing healthy lifestyle habits. Mahalo for your support! Lori