8 Ways to Protect Your Lower Back

By Larry Payne, Georg Feuerstein, Sherri Baptiste, Doug Swenson, Stephan Bodian, LaReine Chabut, Therese Iknoian

Yoga is well known for making people more flexible, supple, lithe, and limber. In fact, you’ve probably seen photographs of yogis or yoginis contorting themselves into different yoga postures. However, recent studies indicate that it’s a safe and effective option for relieving moderate low back pain.

In a study funded by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), participants suffering from chronic lower back pain were divided into three groups: one group took 12 weekly yoga classes, one group took 12 weekly stretching classes, and one group was given a self-care book and encouraged to exercise to relieve pain.

At the end of the study, participants who had taken the yoga and stretching classes did significantly better than those in the self-care group — reducing using of medications to relieve pain and rating their back pain as better or completely gone — and these improvements lasted throughout the study timeframe.

Given how prevalent low back pain is — according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), four out of five adults experience significant low back pain sometime during their lives — these findings can offer hope to millions of sufferers.

Even better than treating low back pain is avoiding it altogether. Following are eight tips you can follow to reduce the risk of back pain when lifting and moving heavy weights:

  • When standing, spread your feet shoulder-width apart to give yourself a solid base of support and then slightly bend your knees.

  • Tighten your stomach muscles before lifting.

  • Position the person or object close to your body before lifting.

  • Lift with your leg muscles. Never lift an object by keeping your legs stiff while bending over it.

  • Avoid twisting your body; instead, point your toes in the direction you want to move and pivot in that direction.

  • When placing an object on a high shelf, move close to the shelf.

  • During lifting movements, maintain the natural curve of your spine; don’t bend at your waist.

  • Don’t try to lift something that’s too heavy or an awkward shape by yourself. Get help.