Many of us have occasional back pain. Our lifestyles are often largely to blame. We seldom use good body mechanics and maintain proper posture. The following are basic guidelines for good posture, body mechanics, flexibility and safe exercise to help prevent back problems.

POSTURE— If we consider how many hours a day we spend in our “normal” postures, it is not hard to imagine how many problems develop if our posture is improper.


It is important to develop and maintain good posture in sitting, standing, and walking. When standing, gravity is causing a downward force through the body. If a person stands straight, with shoulders back, chin tucked in, and buttock tucked, the force of gravity will be equally distributed through the spine. If one stands with rounded shoulders and a forward head all force is applied to the neck region (lower cervical spine).

Components of Good Posture—

A. Standing.
Back Care Exercises Garden stand straight1) Stand straight with shoulders back, chin tucked such that the ears are directly over the the shoulders, buttock tucked, maintaining a normal curve in the low back.
2) Keep weight evenly distributed.

B. Sitting.
1) Sit erect with the shoulders back, chin tucked, low back maintaining curve.
2) Modifications of the work place; use a rolled towel or small pillow, adjust the height of the chair so that knees are slightly elevated.

REMEMBER, the force of gravity can be evenly distributed withBack Care Exercises Garden sit erect proper posture!

BODY MECHANICS— Proper body mechanics can help you to prevent injury. How one lifts and moves can directly affect the health of the back. Understanding the principals of good body mechanics is essential to back care.

Components of Good Body Mechanics—

Back Care Exercises Garden no bend waist1) bend the knees
2) keep a slight curve in the lower back
3) squat down
4) pick up the item
5) bring the item to waist level, close to your body, your center of gravity
6) lift with your legs, NOT WITH YOUR BACK

B. Things to Avoid—
1) bending at the waist
2) lifting anything without bending the knees
3) twisting and lifting especially when shoveling
4) sitting in a slouched posture
5) and never hold your breath when lifting

FLEXIBILITY— If one considers muscles and ligaments as tissue that allows movement, it is not difficult to understand that tight musculature or ligaments may restrict movement. If a tissue is too tight and forceful movement is performed a sprain (ligament injury) or strain (muscle injury) may occur. In the back there are several ligaments and muscles involved in everyday movement. It is important that these structures be as flexible to allow motion without injury.

Note: If you are recovering from a back problem follow the advice of your doctor or physical therapist. Do not attempt these stretches and exercises without their permission.

Components of Good Flexibility—

A. Normal flexibility
1) Flexion— the ability to touch your toes with the spine rounded over
2) Extension— the ability to bring the body parallel with the floor in a press up
3) Sidebending— the ability to bend at the side and reach the knee
4) Rotation— the ability to turn the back to look behind about 90°
5) All these motions must take place for normal flexibility

B. Flexibility exercises
1) Flexion— lying knee to chest
2) Extension— press up
3) Sidebends— pole stretch side to side
4) Rotation— pole stretch turning to look back

C. WARNING SIGNS!—if any exercise causes pain to radiate down to the leg, especially below the knee, seek medical attention, rest, and ice.

STRENGTH—Another important aspect of total back care is strength. Proper muscle tone allows for stabilization of the spine, pelvis, and legs in standing. It also allows for stability during activities.

Proper posture helps to maintain good muscle tone as our bodies work against gravity. We will list here exercises needed to strengthen the low back (lumbar region), which is the area of most common involvement.

Exercise every day. Fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the evening. Always warm up for several minutes. Limber up by alternately tightening and relaxing your arms and legs. Don’t overdo it! Start slow. Working slow is always more effective than fast jerky movements. If you have any pain as result of bending or working the muscles seek the advice of a doctor or physical therapist.

Components of Strength—

A. Low back exercises
1) Abdominals, half sit ups and pelvic tilts, standing and lying
2) Hip extensors and buttock, pelvic lifts and hip extension

CONCLUSION— Total back care is simple once the basic information is understood. If the guidelines presented are followed the chances of sustaining an injury may be significantly reduced. If a back injury does occur you will be equipped with enough information to seek medical attention and avoid further injury. Most importantly— listen to your body! Seek professional help should an injury occur.

To avoid injury use good posture, good body mechanics, stay flexible, and maintain good muscular strength.