Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

September 2011 Wellness Tip

Back Basics

Making a few changes in your everyday habits can add up to back pain relief – or help you avoid pain altogether. Situations or movements that require bending, lifting, reaching and twisting place your back at the most risk.

 Here are five practical things you can do to help your back right now to avoid injury and prevent "back attacks":

 1.    STRETCH FIRST. Avoid strains and sprains by taking the time to stretch your muscles before doing any type of work that may be stressful on your back – just like a professional athlete warms up before a game.

2.    SLOW DOWN. If you’re doing a lot of heavy, repetitive lifting, take it slowly, and allow yourself recovery time between lifts. And, don’t overdo it. Ask for help to “share the load.”

3.    REST YOUR BACK. Take frequent, short breaks between tasks to stretch. Feeling stiff and sore after being in one position for a period of time is your body’s way of telling you to move, rest and stretch.

4.    TAKE CARE OF YOUR BACK WHILE YOU SLEEP. According to The Better Sleep Council, 81% of Americans report waking up with back, neck or shoulder pain. Sleep on a firm mattress, and sleep in a back-friendly position, sleeping on your back with knees slightly elevated (by a pillow) or on your side with knees slightly bent makes for a trouble-free night for your back.

5.    PRACTICE “DYNAMIC SITTING.” Sitting for long periods of time can cause increased pressure on the intervertebral discs – the springy, shock-absorbing part of the spine. There is an association between working in static (i.e. not moving) posture and the risk of back and upper body musculoskeletal disorders. Dynamic sitting is the practice of not staying in one position for extended periods of time. Adjust the height of your backrest to support the natural curve of the lower back and the height of your chair to rest your feet flat on floor. Get up and stretch every 30 minutes or so and incorporate frequent changes to your seated posture throughout the day.

You can enroll in an online wellness program for back care that counts toward F&M’s Lifestyle Returns credit.  Get a personalized plan for managing back pain by going to the Highmark Member website at  Follow the instructions to log in and click on the “Your Health” tab.  Select the link “Improve Your Health," then "Manage A Health Condition," and choose “Take Care of Your Back.”  You will earn 15 points toward your Lifestyle Returns credit by completing the program.  You can also search the Health topics tab of the Member website for an extensive online library of health resources.

Cindi Dinger, on behalf of the Wellness Committee