Low back pain (LBP) is common, occuring in four out of five Canadians. Though LBP often disappears after a couple weeks, it can sometimes be chronic, and the pain can range from mild to severe. Those with back pain may have trouble doing activities such as lifting, walking, bending and sitting. Despite its reocurrence among Canadians, LBP is preventable, and can be avoided through back care strategies, exercises and knowledge.
Causes & Symptoms
Back pain is often a result of an injury or inflamation of ligaments, muscles, joints and discs.
- Working in poor postures
- Lifting heavy objects and/or improper lifting
- Weak back muscles
- Sitting for extended periods of time
- Pain in the back
- Pain in the leg(s)
- A burning/tingling feeling in the legs and/or feet
- Difficulties doing static activities such as standing or sitting
- Difficulties doing mobile activities such as running or lifting
LBP is preventable using a number of strategies. Regular exercise to keep your muscles flexible and strong can reduce your chance of acquiring LBP as well as other common ailments in Canadians. By building muscle strength through exercise, your muscles are better able to support your spine, eliminating some of the causes of LBP. Proper posture also is helpful in preventing back pain by reducing strain in your spine and the surrounding ligaments and muscles. Talk to a physiotherapist to discover more tips and techniques on how to safely improve your lifestyle to reduce your chances of experiencing LBP.
- Take frequent breaks- stand up and move around as often as you can
- Stay physically active outside of work by walking, running, biking or participating in other activities
Support the curve of your lower back when sitting
- Be aware of your posture
- Lift objects close to body and avoid twisting
- Get good quality sleep, manage stress and overall health
- Stretch as often as you can throughout the day
- Sample stretches can be found here
Postural Considerations for Electronics Use
It is well established that good posture is important for joint and muscle health. Do you think about your posture when you use technology? When using technology we tend to hunch our backs and shoulders, bend our necks to look down at our screens, and sit in the same position for long periods of time. All of these demonstrations of poor posture can negitavely impact our health.
Tips for Healthy Electronics Use:
- Take frequent breaks
- Stand, walk, move around, and stretch
- Set a timer to remind you to get up and move
- Be aware of your posture
- Position your ears over your shoulders, and your shoulders over your hips
- Your ankles, knees, and hips should be at 90° angles
- Use a mirror or a photo for reference
- Raise your screens
- Bring your device up to chest height to straighten your back
- Use a pillow or a tablet/phone stand to keep your head upright
Try It Out!
- Find a partner.
- Grab your device.
- Have your partner take a photo of you while you use your device.
Things to look out for:
- Is your head in line with your shoulders, or is it shifted forward?
- Are you hunched forward?
- Are your feet flat on the ground?
- Switch and evaluate your partner’s posture!
- Discuss how you can both improve.
What to do if you experience low back pain:
- Stay as active as you can tolerate
- Avoid bed rest – movement is good for your back
- Apply heat and/or ice for 10-15 minutes
When to see a physiotherapist:
- When your low back pain disrupts your sleep and daily routine
- When you are unable to manage your low back pain
- Sensation changes (numbness, tingling, burning)
Altered bowel and/or urinary control
- Pain spreading away from the back into the legs and toes
- Morning stiffness present for over an hour
What can a physiotherapist do for me?
Physiotherapists are trained to help you prevent, manage or recover from LBP. They are able to assess and diagnose LBP as well as prescribe proper exercises to help you feel like you again! Physiotherapy programs can be individualized to focus your specific needs. Physiotherapists can help you set goals and achieve them. Accessing physiotherapy early after the onset of LBP can improce the chance of resolving pain, improve your long term health, and improve your quality of life immensely. If you are experiencing LBP or would like to learn more, contact a local physiotherapist today!
Students from the School of Physiotherapy created printable info sheets on this topic in partnership with the Saskatchewan Physiotherapy Association and the Agricultural Health and Safety Network. Click here for the info sheets.
Students also worked with the Saskatoon Council on Aging to create an brochure on technology use and posture. Click here for the brochure.