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Health & Exercise Forum

Get Healthy and Prevent Lower Back Pain: Part 1 of 2 for Global Employee Health & Fitness Month

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May 6, 2013

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumPart 1 of 2 for Global Employee Health & Fitness Month

May is Global Employee Health and Fitness month.  Research supports the notion that healthier employees are happier and more productive. When employers  encourage healthy behavior and safety at work, they benefit in many  ways. For example, in addition to improving job satisfaction and productivity,  healthy employees save money by using less sick time, worker’s compensation  benefits and health benefits. For example, according to the Centers  for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 75 percent of employers”  health care costs are related to chronic medical problems such as obesity,  diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Deconditioned,  overweight employees are more likely to suffer from these preventable  conditions and are at greater risk for injury. So, use Global Employee  Health and Fitness Month as an opportunity to start a health promotion  program at your workplace…have a health fair, offer healthy snacks,  encourage walking and exercising at lunch, or offer fitness club stipends.

Lower back pain, one of the most costly illnesses  to employers, is one example of a problem which can be prevented with a  good health and safety program. It is widely accepted in the medical  community that the best treatment for lower back pain (LBP) is prevention.  Keeping fit, (flexible and strong), practicing good posture, and using  proper body mechanics are essential in the prevention of LBP. At our  clinic, significant time and effort is spent emphasizing the importance  of these concepts to our patients and employees.

Kane Trucking is a perfect example of the merit and value of LBP safety  and prevention. I have served as a rehab consultant for Kane Trucking  for many years. During this time, Kane has noticed a significant reduction  in LBP injuries through an onsite safety program which promotes education,  wellness, body mechanics, lifting techniques, postural and stretching  exercises and ergonomics.

Prevention of Lower Back Pain

  • Maintain Fitness Level

As little as 10 extra pounds puts great stress on your lower back.  It also makes it more difficult to maintain good posture. Eat well,  exercise regularly and don’t smoke. Smokers have a much higher  incidence of LBP and failure from lower back surgery.

  • Practice Good Posture & Body Mechanics

Good posture is critical for  a healthy back. When sitting, standing or walking maintain a slight  arch in your lower back, keep shoulders back, and head over your shoulders.  In sitting, use a towel roll or small pillow in the small of the back.

Perform postural exercises throughout the day. Most of the day we sit, stand, and reaching forward and bend our spine. These exercises  are designed to stretch your back in the opposite direction of flexion.  Please perform slowly, hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 6 times each  6 times per day.

      • Chin Tuck: Tuck your chin back to bring   your head over shoulders.
      • Shoulder Blade Pinch: Pinch your shoulder   blades together.
      • Standing Extension: While standing,   put your hands behind back and  extend lower back 10-20 degrees.

Good Body Mechanics and ergonomics  are also important in the prevention of LBP. When lifting, think twice.  Think about the weight, shape and size of the object. Think about where  the object is going and the surface resistance of the floor. Does it  require two people to lift? Can I safely lift that high or bend that  low?

When bending to lift an object  think about safety:Proper Lifting Technique

      • Spread Legs Apart Shoulder Width
      • Bend at the Knees and Limit Forward Bending   the Spine
      • Arch Lower Back Slightly
      • Get and Maintain a Firm Grip
      • Contract and Hold Abdominal (stomach) Muscles
      • Lift With Legs (not back)
      • Do Not Pivot or Rotate Spine With Load (use feet and step turn)
      • Lift Slowly and Carefully (don’t hurry)
      • Take Time to Perform Back Extension Stretches   After the Lift
      • Remember, Pushing is Better Than Pulling a   Heavy Load

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise  Forum!” Next Week: Part II of “Prevention of Lower Back Pain.”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment.  If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact  your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing  in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private  practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth  Medical College.