Officers can experience back pain due to a few job-related factors, sitting and standing for long periods of time without proper support for the back as well as having to wear the protective vests that add weight along with the duty belts. Not only are these belts extremely heavy but the weight of all the tools carried on it are not always evenly distributed. The equipment puts at least 25lb of extra weight added to your body. All of this repetitive movement causes wear and tear on your body. Although you will never be able to stop this repetitive movement or get rid of all this excess weight there are some things you can do to slow the process and better your back.
Exercise. If you are one that already exercises, you should concentrate on working your lower back muscles and strengthening that lower area that supports your spine along with working your legs. Just another reason ..ahem..guys why you shouldn't skip leg day!
Here are a few examples:
- Partial Crunches. Similar to a crunch, lying down, knees bents, head looking towards the ceiling ( pretend there is an orange between your chin and upper chest so that you don't strain your neck) arms behind your head, tighten your core and raise your shoulders from the floor. That's it, no need to come completely up to your knees.
- Wall Sits. Stand with your back facing the wall. Lean against that wall and start scooting down until both of your legs are at a 90-degree angle. (pretend you are sitting in a chair) Hold that position for starters 20 sec, challenge yourself to work up to 1 minute.
- Superman. Lay on the floor facing down. For starters cross your arms and rest your chin where your arms cross. Legs are straight. Gently lift your legs and upper body off the ground, hold for 3 seconds and release back to the lying position. If this is comfortable you can try putting your arms straight in front of you, in a "Y" form, or straight out from your sides.
- Yoga. Look I know most of you are probably rolling your eyes reading this, you're not the yogi type. However, don't knock it til you try it! Yoga has so many benefits such as improved flexibility, increased muscle strength specifically in areas such as your lower back, hips, and glutes! The best part is that you don't need any weights and you can do it anywhere. Trust me it is a killer workout, and if you are not one to take on a class you can do it from home. There are plenty of online yoga classes readily available to you!
If you are already experiencing some back pain and it is not to the point where you have to see a doctor or chiropractor yet, try a few stretches.
Here are a few examples:
- Knee Hugs. While laying down bring your knees to your chest one at a time, and hold this position for 5-10 seconds.
- Hamstring Stretches. While laying down. Bend one leg. With your hand, a towel, or a resistance band, bring the other leg up slowly while keeping that leg as straight as possible, and slightly pull. You should feel a nice stretch behind your leg above your knee. Hold this for 20-30 seconds. Do both legs.
- Cat Stretches. I know these look a bit funny, and you probably do not want to make eye contact doing these but this is a great stretch. Get on your hands and knees. The first part is to arch your back, bring your head tucked in while slowly bringing your bottom in towards your center. The second movement coming out of that is to push your head back out, dropping your back downwards while arching your bottom back out. This is a slow fluid movement.
If you are looking for some cardio that will be easier on your back try cycling. Swimming, I would suggest is the best for being the most gentle on your joints and now that it is summer who wouldn't want to add that to their routine to keep themselves cool while strengthening their body!
If you've read this and you are still hesitant with working out and stretching then in the very least please while on patrol, try to get out of the car at least once an hour and move around. Keep in mind that while in the patrol car posture can affect your back too, so try not to slouch! Remember mobility and flexibility is vital in your line of work. This is your career and who really wants to spend it fighting workers comp cases!
If you would like a stretching guide or a few more examples of what to do please reach out! I would love to get you going and feeling better!
As always take care and stay safe!