Back injuries are one of the most common injuries that we treat. Patients of all ages can suffer from different forms of back injuries which in turn can lead to chronic back pain, lower back pain, or spinal pain. Chronic back pain that isn’t treated properly can even lead to thousands of dollars in medical costs and healthcare visits, which is why it’s important to seek early care for low back pain. Preventing chronic back pain before it begins starts with doing all that you can to reduce your risk for a future back injury. We’ve identified several key factors that could significantly increase your risk for a back injury over time.
Roughly 80% of all individuals experience back pain at some point in their lives. While those numbers might seem alarming and make you think that back pain is inevitable, it doesn’t need to be. Knowing the different risk factors that could potentially lead to a back injury could help you reduce your odds of injury. We’ve identified eight risk factors below that could increase your odds of sustaining a back injury and developing chronic back padding-bottom over time.
One of the leading risk factors that could potentially expose you to a back injury is your age. A common misconception with back injuries or chronic back pain is that it only affects older individuals. According to the CDC, the percentage of individuals who suffer from lower back pain increases with each age group. As you begin to get older, your body will begin to show and respond to some of that wear and tear you put it through over the years. Over time, your body will become less tolerant of certain activities or stressors, and your risk for injury steadily increases. You’ll find that your body might not be able to lift as heavy or heal as fast as it used to when you were younger. Pushing your body too far and too fast when you’re older could significantly increase the odds of sustaining a back injury if you’re not careful.
Another large risk factor for millions of Americans has to do with their weight. Health professionals have been sounding alarm bells for decades as the pounds have been packing on for millions of people each year. Research has shown that the number of people who are overweight or obese has been steadily rising since the late ’90s. Roughly two out of every three individuals is considered overweight or obese. Weight can play a large role in the type and severity of injuries you might sustain while performing certain activities or engaging in different types of exercises. Individuals who pack on extra weight also showcase signs of a lack of physical activity. Packing on the extra pounds might tip the scales in the wrong direction and lead to an injury that would require significant rehab or physical therapy.
Living a sedentary lifestyle could have drastic consequences on your back. Exercising has many great benefits, including its ability to significantly decrease your risk for injury¹. We’ve all been guilty of taking advantage of life’s many great pleasures in our modern society, including the ability to work at a desk for most of the day or consume hours of entertainment in one sitting. Unfortunately, this means that many individuals avoid dedicating themselves to exercise or physical activity for extended periods of time. Over time, your body can become used to this sedentary lifestyle which will significantly increase the odds of a back injury when you try to lift heavy objects or perform strenuous activities. In addition, living a sedentary lifestyle not only increases your risk factor for a back injury but can cause several other health concerns as well.
You’ve probably heard the age-old expression, “Lift with your legs, not your back.”. Even though the odds are that you’ve heard the expression, bad habits can creep in over time and increase the chances of sustaining an injury due to improper lifting techniques or form. Even some of the most experienced athletes and bodybuilders can sustain significant back injuries due to improper lifting techniques. Knowing your limits when lifting heavy objects can help you avoid back injuries and the chronic pain that can come with them.
Certain sports could increase your risk for a back injury if you’re not careful or mindful. While we’re not saying you should stop playing sports, knowing some of the risks they pose is beneficial to helping you reduce potential back injuries in the future. Contact sports like mixed-martial arts or limited-contact sports like hockey, football, soccer, lacrosse, and basketball could put you in harm’s way at a moment’s notice. Even for the most seasoned athletes and competitors, a bump here and there from another athlete could turn incidental contact into a serious injury.
Your job can be taxing to both your mental well-being and your body. If you’re in an occupation where you’re repeatedly performing manual labor, lifting, bending, or having to stand on your feet for long periods of time, you could be putting your back at risk. Plenty of occupations and jobs could significantly increase your odds of sustaining a back injury both during and after work hours.
Overuse of any muscle can lead to significant injuries, especially for your back. The problem is that we use our back so often that we don’t realize just how important it can be for nearly every type of physical activity or compound movement you engage in. When you don’t give your body enough time to recover from prolonged use or repetitive physical activity, you’re setting yourself up for injury.
Genetics and hereditary factors can play a significant role in what kind of injuries you might sustain throughout your lifetime. There are certain types of genetic back diseases that could increase your risk as you age or be a cause for concern throughout your lifetime. It’s important to note that not all genetic back diseases could lead to a back injury or doom you from the get-go.
We’ve outlined some of the important steps you can take to reduce your risk for a back injury in the future.
One of the best ways to reduce your risk for a potential back injury is to start exercising and increasing your physical activity throughout the week. Even one hour of activity could help you offset up to eight hours of inactivity. Start slow and gradually increase your workout routine and activity level to get back into the swing of things. As you ease your way back into exercising more frequently, consider doing low-impact exercises that will reduce the strain you place on your back. Exercise also has overall health benefits such as improving sleep and mental health which are important factors in pain. Our physical therapists can help guide and educate you on some helpful exercises you can do to get back into the swing of things, ease your chronic back pain, restore function, and improve your range of motion.
The next preventative step you can take to reduce your risk for future back injuries is to try and get your diet and weight under control. Try to choose healthier food options and eat in moderation to avoid packing on those extra pounds. By eating healthier food at regular intervals, you’ll give your body the fuel it needs to perform and recover.
Building up your strength and flexibility will help prepare your back for some of the more strenuous exercises you’re putting it through. Work to build strength over time in order to build resiliency and reduce the risk for injury.
In addition to daily exercise and balanced diet, avoiding smoking or excessive alcohol intake can reduce the likelihood of chronic low back pain. Increasing water intake to 8 glasses a day is recommended. If possible, also aim for a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night. Be patient, as it can take nearly three weeks, for you to develop good habits in place of bad ones.
Manual therapy can help patients identify and correct problems before they become bigger issues down the road. Our expert physical therapists use manual therapy to identify areas of concern through a comprehensive evaluation process to determine a patient’s range of motion, tense muscles, and trigger points that could cause injury or chronic pain.
Education is one of the most important facets to reduce your risk for future injuries. Proper education means understanding what risk factors there are for future injuries, key ways to reduce those risks, and the steps you can take to recover and reduce the back pain you’re feeling. Connecting with a physical therapist is a great way to ensure that you’re performing certain exercises correctly and you’re doing all that you can to stay safe. Physical therapists can also educate you on proper ergonomic set up for a work station or proper lifting techniques to reduce the risk of injury. We take great pride in helping guide each patient throughout the treatment and recovery process so they understand every step of the journey. Our physical therapists will work with you to come up with a comprehensive treatment plan while educating you on the way.
Physical therapy can help patients take steps to actively reduce their risk as well as recover from back injuries. Our experts help patients in a variety of ways by performing comprehensive patient evaluations and functional assessments to create a personalized plan of care that is designed to help you reduce your chronic or acute back pain and reduce your risk for future injuries. To get on the pathway to recovery today and reduce your chronic back pain, Book an Appointment Today!