Spring is the time of year when outdoor sports get going again, and many people also start an exercise program. While both of these are great in terms of overall health, it's important to prevent injuries from working out or playing sports. Here are some tips to prevent back injuries, courtesy of neurosurgeon Dr. Kelly Kiehm of Capital City Neurosurgery:
Strong muscles are less prone to injury. That's particularly true of the core muscles in the trunk. To help prevent back injury, you should concentrate on exercises that strengthen the core, including the all-important abdominal muscles. Weight lifting, abdominal crunches, abdominal presses and bridge exercises are all good choices to promote core strength.
Do It Right
An exercise performed incorrectly is not as effective. Even more important, an incorrectly performed exercise can increase the risk of injury. Don't assume that because you've been doing a certain exercise for some time, you're doing it right. Learn how to do exercises the right way – a personal trainer or physical therapist can correct your form and supervise until you know how to perform an exercise correctly.
Tight muscles increase the risk of injury. They may also affect your balance – and not in a good way. Regular stretching exercises and flexibility training are just as important as building strength. It's especially important to stretch the hamstring muscles, as tight hamstrings can increase the risk of a back injury. Certain kinds of exercise promote better flexibility. For example, yoga is an excellent choice, as is tae chi. Cold muscles don't stretch very well, so it's important to warm up before you stretch. Although you should feel the stretch, never push a stretch to the point of pain.
Take a Stand
Protecting your back from injury goes well beyond the weight room or gym. Poor posture and body mechanics add stress to muscles, tendons and ligaments. It's important to maintain good spinal alignment when standing, sitting, walking and even while you sleep. Overly erect posture, however, such as the military “brace,” can also cause problems. Balanced posture keeps your spine in alignment so that you can move easily. You should also be conscious of your posture during your workout.
Whether it's a barbell or a box, improper lifting is often responsible for back injuries. Learn to lift correctly. Squat, don't bend forward. Bend at the hips and knees, get a good hold on the object you're lifting and keep it close to the body as you lift by straightening your legs. Don't twist while holding something heavy. Be especially careful when lifting weights above your head.
Enjoy yourself this spring while exercising or playing sports. If you do have a problem, however, don't hesitate to contact Capital City Neurosurgery. We offer a number of minimally invasive procedures and conservative therapies for back problems as well as surgical options. Don't let a back injury slow you down this spring.