You can help prevent back problems by taking the following common-sense measures:
Get regular aerobic exercise (e.g. walking or swimming). Exercise increases back and abdominal muscle strength and flexibility, which helps support and align your back and minimises the frequency and severity of back injuries. Flexibility in the hips and upper legs allows for correct pelvic bone alignment.
Choose an exercise level suited to your fitness level, and do gentle warm-up stretches before and after exercising. If you've had back problems, consult your doctor or physiotherapist before starting a new exercise regime.
Use proper body mechanics:
Standing. Maintain a neutral pelvic position and avoid rounding your back. Avoid hunching your shoulders and tensing your neck when stressed. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes – high heels put pressure on your lower back.
Sitting. Use a seat with good lower back support. Keep your knees and hips level and your feet on the floor.
Lifting. Hold the load close to your body, keep your back straight and bend at the knees. Let your legs take most of the strain. Avoid lifting and twisting simultaneously.
Lose weight. If you are more than 10 percent over your ideal body weight, lose weight through healthy diet and aerobic exercises.
Reviewed by Dr Pradeep Makan, orthopaedic surgeon, Melomed Gatesville and Life Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town and part-time lecturer in the department of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Cape Town, 2010.
Exercises to alleviate back pain