5 Steps to Preventing a Herniated Disc
If you smoke, quit as soon as possible. Nicotine from cigarette smoke prevents your body from absorbing nutrients needed to maintain healthy systems. As such, your discs could become dry, brittle and weak from lack of nutrition.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintain a healthy weight to lower the load on your back. Eat a healthy balance of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from various sources such as lean meats, fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Eat foods high in calcium and vitamin D to support bone growth throughout your skeletal system, including your back.
Exercise regularly to help keep muscles, ligaments and tendons strong. Moderate exercise such as walking, bicycling and swimming provides good overall workouts without much twisting of your back. Exercise also helps prevent excessive weight gain that puts extra stress on your back muscles, vertebrae and discs. A sedentary lifestyle may cause stiffness, weakness and pressure within the back that makes it harder to move.
Intense, improper exercise could harm your back as well. Jerky movements on exercise equipment could injure your back and even cause a herniated disc. Consult with a licensed physical therapist before starting an exercise routine to help your back muscles.
Maintain Good Posture
Monitor your posture and maintain proper alignment of your spine. Keep your ears, shoulders and hips in a straight line. Keep your head up and stomach pulled in. Walk as much as possible, without high heels, and wear cushioned soles. Sit in chairs with straight backs. Office chairs should have arm rests, adjustable backs and low-back support. Place a small pillow behind the lower back to help relieve pressure on that part of your body. Avoid driving for long periods of time, and take frequent stretch breaks if you must drive long distances.
Lift and Bend Properly
Heavy lifting can cause a herniated disc, either with an acute injury or over time with repetitive motions. If an object is too heavy, have someone help you lift it. Spread your feet apart to shoulder width to give yourself a wide base to distribute the weight of the load. Stand as close to the object as possible, and then bend at the knees as opposed to the waist. Tighten the muscles of your stomach and buttocks as you lift to help maintain the proper "S" curve of your spine. Stand without using muscles near the waist to keep your back as straight as possible. If you cannot lift an object, pull it instead of pushing it.
A herniated disc in your back occurs when the tissue between your vertebrae wears out and develops tiny cracks. Discs then lose water that cushions the inner part of the structure and the disc may slip out of place or protrude into other parts of your spine causing pain in your back, legs, arms and neck. Take steps to prevent herniated discs with this handy guide.