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The many ways you can hurt your back.

During a recent trip, we couldn't help but note that an acquaintance, a middle-age male lawyer, was asking his wife to pick up their luggage from the carousel at the airport.

Apparently, he has a history of low back sprain in the past, which was triggered by lifting their suitcases during one of their travels.

The next time we go on a shopping spree abroad, we should always remember that lifting our suitcases, packed with everything we shopped, might take a heavy toll on our skeleto-muscular system, particularly our back.

This is the reason why the airlines add a stiff surcharge when our luggage is heavier than their allowed weight, to discourage us from bringing super-heavy luggage. It's not good for us; it's also not good for their personnel who lift the luggage to and from the baggage conveyor.

Quite noticeable is how petite airline personnel at the check-in counters manage to lift these heavy luggage when they fall off the conveyor. Apparently, they're well trained on how to prevent back injury from lifting heavy luggage. In most instances of weightlifting-induced back trauma, it's not the actual weight that matters, but how one lifts the weight.

The proper way to do it is to position oneself directly in front of the object to be lifted. One should keep his/her back straight and the head up as he/she squats close to the object to be lifted. One should then lift the object by propping the legs to the erect position, and firmly holding the object lifted close to the middle portion of one's body.

Essentially, it's the legs and arms that do the lifting and not the back. If one twists or bends one's body, there is an increased risk of spraining one's back.

How else can we unwittingly hurt our backs? Sitting for prolonged periods of time, and sleeping on either too soft or too firm a mattress, can also be culprits. What is the best mattress to use to protect the back? Must it be soft, medium firm, or firm?

A medium-firm mattress appears to be best. Orthopedic mattresses are usually medium-firm. But it may differ from one person to another. If you wake up in the morning with back and nape pains, your current mattress might not be suited for you.

Slouching when sitting is also not good for the back; neither is sitting up too straight and stiff for hours on end at work. Office workers are advised to stand up every now and then and walk a bit in one's cubicle. Upon hearing this advice, a patient makes it a point to stand up every time he answers a phone call while at work. The phone call is his cue to take a break from sitting in his chair.

We should also adjust the height of our chair so we can be relaxed when we're seated, with our backs comfortably leaning on our chair, with both feet on the floor.

Our back is intended to carry our ideal body weight, depending on how tall we are. It can carry an additional 10 percent of our ideal weight without much strain. But if we're more than 10 percent overweight-worse, if we're obese-the excess poundage puts undue tension on the back, and can also accelerate degenerative changes.

Increasing weight, and being out of shape, is a vicious cycle, and one of the adverse consequences is a bad back. Another usual problem is that overweight individuals who don't exercise during the working week may push themselves too hard over-exercising during weekends, and this can be a perfect recipe for a back injury.

So one should avoid being weekend exercise warriors by trying to exercise regularly, preferably daily, or at least four times a week to keep oneself fit and trim.

Although one should try to lose excess weight, overdoing it to the opposite extreme of being too skinny can also be equally risky in sustaining back injuries. When one is too skinny, one can develop brittle bones and be more prone to fractures.

Our back is our body's main pillar, and we want it to last a lifetime. So, do mind your back all the time.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Nov 22, 2016
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