ABC7 News Feature: Dr. Haines Shares Tips to Prevent Back Pain While Parenting

Authored by: Dr. Colin Haines

June is National Men’s Health Month and we are dealing with a problem that impacts millions every year, back pain. Dr. Colin Haines, a Spine Surgeon at Virginia Spine Institute joined us to discuss back pain.

Dr. Haines, great to have you back with us on the show, and who’s that you got with you?

“Nice to see you. So today I’m totally the side-kick. This is the star of the show, Emerson, my seven month old daughter.”

Tell us about how back pain specifically impacts men each year, especially fathers.

“Dads oftentimes are typically tasked with doing most of the heavy lifting. Whether it’s going to the beach, traveling, or even just carrying their kids around at the zoo. Lots of heavy lifting can be really hard on the back. And that’s one of the most common reasons that people come and see me in the office. They say: I can’t care for my kids, or enjoy my kids the way I want to.”

So what tips do you have for dads (and parents) to preventing back pain and lifting things correctly?

“One of the common themes that we see when people use poor ergonomics is forward flexion, it’s like doing constant sit-ups. It’s actually not good for the back, because that puts a lot of stress on the discs. So what we want to do is use good ergonomics. The old adage: bend with the knees, bend with the hips, really works.”

Carrying a baby the wrong way, that could hurt their backs too, right?

“Yes, not only is it fun to hold your child next to your chest, it’s good for your back. If you do a lot of holding your child out, that puts a lot of force on your back. If you try it, you’ll feel it really quickly. So you want to make sure you’re standing upright with a good posture, good low back curvature. Make sure you hold your child close to your chest.”

Now what other do’s and don’ts do you have for fathers?

“When you’re a parent, time and your body, are really not your own anymore. I find myself not only not having time to do the type of exercise I once wanted to, but also diapers, feeding, bath time, all these different things are kind of hard on your back.

  • For Emerson’s crib, I’ve actually elevated the mattress pretty high. So when I’m bending forward to pick her up, I’m not having to do so too far.
  • Same thing with changing diapers. Use a change table or ottoman to do it, and avoid sitting on the ground and bending forwards.”

A lot of men tend to ignore persistent pain, and one study shows that 65% of men put off going to the doctor as long as possible.
So when should you know it is definitely time to go, and see a doctor about back pain?

“You know, life’s too short. I’m acutely aware of that as a dad of three girls. I’ve got three, from ages six years old to seven months old. This may be the best it is, as teenage years maybe a little bit challenging. So if you’re hurting, don’t ignore it. For me, if I’m hurting and not enjoying my children in the way I want to, I’d get it checked out right away. Because the quicker we get answers, the quicker we get you feeling better.”

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