Geoff’s Back Care Tips

Back pain is a subject with which I am very familiar. There are many suggested alternatives for relieving this unfortunate condition, including everything from physical therapy to medications to injections, even prayer. I have tried them all including surgery as well as ice and heat for short term relief.

I’m into preventative medicine with my weak back. I want to enjoy an active life. I know I’m vulnerable, so I have changed the way I challenge my body. Call it behavior modification, but I have tried with reasonable success to avoid those sudden movements and activities that create what some back docs refer to as a “flare-up”. It’s easy, try them. They will hopefully become habit-forming. They sure work for me.

Don’t hesitate to alert any of your back suffering friends or relatives to these Back Care Tips. Also feel free to print up these suggestions to pass on to folks who do not have access to a computer.


Tighten your abdominal muscles before you reach, lift, pull, and push anything! Use your body to initiate all movements. Maintain a neutral back (avoid slouching) Never hyper extend your back. Avoid sudden movements; learn to move deliberately. All movements should be slow, steady and by the numbers. Take periodic breaks throughout the day.


1)      An upright slightly cushioned chair is the best. Avoid sitting in easyback3 chairs or couches.

2)      Desk chairs on rollers will relieve the need to awkwardly twist.

3)      Don’t sit in a seat for more than 30 min without taking at least a 5 minute break. This is everywhere including movie theaters (try to get an aisle seat).

4)      To sit down bend your knees and use your hands to lower your body onto a chair.

5)      Use both hands to get up from any type of chair.

6)      When getting up out of a chair: Position one foot slightly in front of the chair placing the other foot slightly under the chair. Lean forward and place both hands on the arms or the seat of the chair to push your self up.

In Bed:

1)      When sleeping on your back place a pillow under your knees.back1

2)      When sleeping on your side the pillow goes between your knees

3)      Getting into bed: Sit down, support yourself with your hand and then your elbow as you rotate your body gently swinging both legs onto the bed using the weight of your upper body as a fulcrum.

4)      A hospital type bed is advised. A hospital bed will enable you to raise the bed before getting in or out.

5)      Never sit up abruptly in bed.

6)      Getting out of bed: roll onto your side and push up with your hand and elbow while you rotate up. Gently swing both legs onto the floor. From a seated position push up off the bed using your hands.

7)      Reaching in bed while on one’s back is bad behavior. Turn/roll over before reaching.

8)      Sneezing: Turn over on your side. Bring your knees into your chest. Tighten your abdominal muscles.

9)      Don’t sleep on a very soft bed or couch. A firm mattress will give you better support.


1)      Use a “Better Back” or some other special seat to support your upper body. Bucket seats, standard on all cars, were back9not designed for people with bad backs.

2)      Getting into a car: Sit first and then rotate your entire body, try to bring the door with you to avoid reaching out wide to close it..

3)      Posture adjustments: Position your seat so your knees are close to level with your hips.

4)      Avoid rotating your upper torso when backing up the vehicle or reaching for objects in the car. Use your side mirrors to help you park.

5)      Getting out of a car: Rotate your entire body; place your feet on the ground, and use your hands to push yourself up and out.


1)      Make sure all heavy items are placed in the upper section of the market basket.

2)      Bending from the waist to reach into your basket puts stress on your back.

3)      When unloading groceries bring your shopping cart as close to the car as possible. Bring the bagged groceries into your chest/stomach and rotate your entire body to move them from the cart into your car.

4)      When lifting bags from the grocery cart use the rim of the basket as a middle step. When taking items out of the trunk, drag to the bumper’s edge as a middle step before carrying into the house.


1)      Carry things close to your body with both hands in a hugging position.

2)      Use a backpack instead of a shoulder bag.

3)      Use rolling luggage whenever possible. Use an airport cart; do not bring heavy so called “carry-on” luggage.  Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance.

4)      Never carry a brief case at your side in the traditional manner for more than a minute or two. Use caution when picking it up. Like any item, bend your knees first. Do not simply bend from the waist.


1)      Do not over reach! For example, use your elbows as support. When reaching across a table.

2)      Drag objects towards you to avoid a reach and lift movement.

3)      Never stretch your arms and back to reach for an object on a shelf. Use a stool or step ladder.


1)      To put shoes on sit in a low chair or stool. A long handle shoe horn is back7a good alternative. To tie your shoes standing up, put your foot on the same low chair or stool and squat so as to minimize bending. An alternative is to kneel on one knee at a time.

Picking or lifting up objects:

1)      Don’t bend from the waist to pick up any object

2)      To pick up an object go down on one knee, bring it close to your body, push up by using your upper thigh or use a table or counter as support.

3)      Always face both of your feet towards objects prior to lifting anything. Avoid rotating while lifting objects.

4)      Picking up a child from a crib puts your back in a high risk scenario. If you are lifting from a crib lower the crib rail and scoop the child into your arms, bringing it close to your body.

5)      To properly pick up a large object, use both hands, gripping it with your back5palms and fingers. Keep your elbows at your side and the load close to your chest.

6)      Use a stick, cane, or hanger to reach for objects from under tables, beds or items that have fallen out of reach.

7)      Look for a chair or stool to create a middle step between the floor and your self.

8)      NEVER lift or take down heavy objects above your head.

Avoid all sudden movements:

1)      If someone taps you on the shoulder do not twist and look over your shoulder. Instead turn your entire body by moving your feet first.


1)      Limit toilet time. Use your hands to help you sit/rise from the toilet.

2)      Avoid forceful bowel movements.

Opening doors:

1)      When reaching for a knob or handle to open a heavy door, move your body close to the door. After releasing the door from the jam use both hands to pull the door open as you rotate your entire body.

2)      When opening a freezer, refrigerator door or sticky drawers instead of using your body weight to pull it open. Use your thumbs as levers to release the jam.



About 20 years ago I discovered the perfect back support sold by a company called Jobri. Believe me, I have tried them all. Better back is the best. I keep one in my car, another in my office and a third at the breakfast table. The Better Back consists of two connected sections. Each section consists of a padded contoured plywood base. The lumbar pad is adjustable and removable. They are light and easy to carry. I take them everywhere, planes, trains… I don’t leave home without one.

It’s not easy to locate Better Back at retail stores. Orthopedists and therapists usually special order them for their patients. On the other hand you can buy them from online sources, including Amazon, where they can be purchased for around $100. They come in grey, navy and black and include an adjustable lumbar pad (a must). Go to “Jobri better back seat support” on Google or click the link below:

Jobri Better Back Website



February 19, 2013tn_aqua_jogger

Swimming is a great conditioner for back sufferers. The New York Times has some excellent suggestions. Also try jogging in deeper water with a flotation vest. It’s a perfect way to enjoy a full body workout.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


2 thoughts on “Geoff’s Back Care Tips

  1. Sandy Joy

    Something I really enjoy doing, especially if someone’s doing it with you: Putting on a life jacket and treading water for about 30 minutes. Very relaxing and a good workout at the same time.

  2. Lynn Rosenfeld

    Geoffrey, you gave me this Jobri years ago and it made a huge difference…just part of the big and wonderful difference you and Elayne have made in my life and that of my whole family. Lynn

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