People are constantly on the move during the warm summer months. It’s a popular time for family vacations, moving to a new home, or catching up on outdoor yard chores.
Unfortunately, many of these common activities lead to painful back injuries. In 2014, roughly 3.7 million people visited doctors’ offices for back symptoms related to pain and/or injuries during the summer months (June through August).
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) cautions the public to take steps to strengthen and protect their backs this season.
“Many back injuries occur from sudden movements during daily activities such as bending, lifting, and twisting,” said AAOS spokesperson Afshin Razi, MD, an orthopaedic spine specialist. “Always be mindful of the way you’re positioning your body and practice safe lifting techniques during these motions. Keep the core muscles in your back and abdomen strong and flexible. Strengthening your core muscles will help to support your spine.”
The AAOS offers the following tips to help prevent back injuries.
- Use proper lifting techniques when moving heavy objects such as luggage and furniture. Be sure to lift heavy items with your legs, not your back. Position yourself close to the object you want to lift. Do not bend over to pick up heavy items. Keep your back straight and bend at your knees.
- Get help. Do not attempt to lift or move heavy objects on your own. Get help from family, friends or hire someone to help you.
- Use smart packing techniques and pack lightly. When possible, place heavier items in a few smaller bags or boxes instead of one large item.
- Take breaks. If you’re traveling, be sure to give yourself a break from sitting in the same position for too long. The same goes for doing a chore. Make time to stretch in between tasks.
- Maintain good posture. Maintain good posture throughout your flight or car ride. When sitting, keep your back in a normal, slightly arched position. Make sure your chair supports your lower back. Keep your head and shoulders upright.
- Minimize falls.
- Wear properly fitting shoes with rubber, non-skid soles. This is important for both traveling or working outdoors, as certain shoes increase your chances of falling.
- If you’re working outdoors, secure hoses, rakes and other garden tools from your workspace to avoid tripping over those objects.
- Pets want to enjoy the outdoor weather just as much as you do. When doing projects outdoors with pets, consider placing a bell on your pet so you can locate them easily and know when they are near your feet to minimize a potential tripping hazard.