When you’re a dad (or a grandfather, uncle or family friend), having active young kids in your life can bring on the back pain before you even realize it.
Between tossing the kids in the air, playing a game of airplane, or even taking a break to work on your golf swing, there are plenty of opportunities to accidentally strain your back.
Being sidelined due to lower back pain is never fun; fortunately, there are a few, simple everyday tweaks you can make. Just in time for Father’s Day, we’re sharing 5 tips to avoid an aching back.
1. Model good posture for your kids (and yourself!).
Do you have memories of your own parents or grandparents reminding you not slouch? It turns out they were onto something, perhaps more than they knew. Improving your posture can prevent back pain.
Whether you’re standing or sitting down (including in the car), try your best to keep your spine straight, your shoulders back, and your abdominal muscles engaged.
When you’re seated, also remember to keep both feet flat on the floor. Crossing your legs might feel comfortable at the moment, but it’s actually putting pressure on your muscles so they can’t properly line up, leading to back pain.
2. Keep playtime pain-free.
Let’s face it: even the fun, playful parts of day-to-day life with children can sometimes cause physical wear and tear—lower back pain and stiffness, shoulder strain, neck tightness, tension headaches, and more.
How can you cut down on these risks?
Lift with your legs! When you lean forward with straight legs to pick up your child (or a heavy object) the hamstrings stretch tightly. This means your lower back, now overstretched itself, starts doing all the work involved in lifting and might become pinched and strained. Lifting with your legs is a simple and powerful technique for preventing this.
Bend at the knees. When you’re scooping up your children to toss them in the air, don’t forget to keep your knees bent. On the way back up, use your thigh muscles and avoid twisting your midsection.
Keep bending to a minimum. Instead of hunching over or bending while playing with your kids, get on your knees or sit down with them. Bonus: you’ll be able to connect with them even better from down on their level.
3. Breathe in, breathe out.
Many people carry stress-related stiffness in their shoulders and back. Have you noticed your shoulders rising when you’re feeling less than relaxed? Take a few moments to lower your shoulders back into place and take a deep breath.
Who knew releasing stress and healing your back pain could be as simple as focused breathing? It’s all about noticing when you need a few refreshing moments and giving yourself permission to take a break, on Father’s Day and all year round.
4. Give some thought to your mattress.
A high-quality mattress is hugely important when it comes to healing and preventing back pain. When you go to sleep tonight, ask yourself whether your mattress is too firm. If the answer is yes, your body will be in rigid positions all night that can lead to back pain.
On the other hand, if your mattress is too soft and pillowy, your body won’t be fully supported. Your ligaments and muscles are then forced to stretch beyond their comfort zones which causes – you guessed it – back pain.
Your mission is to find a mattress that provides enough support but is also comfortable enough for you to relax. A mattress is, of course, a major purchase, so take your time and give it some thought.
5. Stretch it out.
A perfect beginner stretch to strengthen your back is called the Seated Spinal Twist. It also opens your hips and shoulders.
- Have a seat on the floor with your legs straightened in front of you. Bend your knees, putting your feet on the floor. Then slide your left foot under your right leg until it touches the outside of your right hip.
- Laying the outside of your left leg on the floor, step your right foot over your left leg. Your right knee should now be pointing at the ceiling.
- Exhale, twisting toward the inside of your right thigh. Press your right hand against on floor behind you, placing your left upper arm on the outside of your right thigh. Pull your front torso and inner right thigh together, pressing your inner right foot into the floor. Lean your torso back slightly while you continue to lengthen your tailbone into the floor.
Stay in this position for one minute while taking controlled inhalations and long exhalations. Then repeat with the other leg.
Many of these tips for preventing and healing back pain might seem simple, yet they can be tough to remember when life with your family gets busy! Never forget you always have an example of the perfect back alignment and posture whenever you need it: your child’s.
Most children naturally have the very aligned, relaxed back and unrolled shoulders we should all be aiming for. As a dad, you teach your children many lessons – but this might be an invaluable lesson you can learn from them.
Happy Father’s Day!
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.