The day before yesterday my sister and I had a girl’s only getaway in celebration of her birthday. We had massages, facials, and pedicures and basically pampered ourselves silly! :-) A massage was definitely in order for my sister because the day before she had foolishly tried to lift her Newfoundland “Bart” into the back of her car and was experiencing some serious back pain! No fun, especially on your birthday!
If you’ve ever suffered back pain, you’re not alone; about eight in ten Americans experience it at some point in their lives. But did you know that making some simple changes to your lifestyle can help you prevent back pain? (Rebecca, are you listening?) Also, if you do happen to do something like try and lift a 130-pound dog into your car…there are also some fast fixes you can do for immediate pain relief (Rebecca, are you still listening?).
How To PREVENT Back Pain
Strengthen Your Back
Back problems often occur when someone suddenly attempts to lift a heavy object that stresses the back. If your back muscles are weak, the spine ends up having to do too much of the work. However, when your back has enough muscle strength through regular exercise, the muscles provide extra support to the spine which prevents injury.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Extra body weight increases stress on lower back muscles which can cause pain. Eat a balanced diet filled with fruits and vegetables while keeping processed foods to a minimum.
Stretching is extremely important to prevent back problems as well as recover from back injuries, since it helps keep your body flexible. Yoga is a great way to increase flexibility, but even some simple stretches such as bending forward and backward or side-to-side a few times each day will provide benefits.
Maintain Good Posture
In order to keep your back healthy, the correct way to stand straight is by making sure your ears are over your shoulders, your shoulders are over your hip joints, and your hip joints are over your ankles. When you’re sitting, make sure you get a chair that keeps your back straight and try to avoid slouching forward.
If you are experiencing back pain when walking, standing or running, then your shoes and walking gait may be to blame. If you walk incorrectly and wear the wrong shoes, your body must work harder to keep your whole body stable, putting extra pressure on your knees, hips and lower back. It is important to examine your posture when walking and standing, and then choose shoes that help to correct any posture problems. The lower the heel, the better.
Lifting Correctly (Rebecca, are you STILL listening?) :-)
Do not lift objects that are too heavy for you, like boxes or furniture. If you must lift, bend your knees, don’t twist your body, and keep your head pointed down and in line with your back.
Cook With Spices
Try turmeric, ginger, and capsaicin – three spices that have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help if they are used regularly.
The bones, muscles and other structures in the spine need good nutrition and vitamins so that they are strong enough to support the body and to perform their other functions. Helpful nutritional supplements for back pain include:
ZINC-30 mg twice daily; anti-inflammatory
VITAMIN E-400 IU daily; anti-inflammatory
CALCIUM-500mg daily; strengthens bones
VITAMIN C-250-500mg twice daily
COPPER: 2 mg daily
BORON: 1-3 mg daily with food; helps the body absorb calcium and magnesium
GLUCOSAMINE SULFATE: 500 mg. three times daily. Can rebuild cartilage in joints and has been studied by the American College of Rheumatology as an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
MAGNESIUM- 250 mg daily; strengthens bones and relaxes muscles
NIACINAMIDE: 500 mg three times daily; anti-inflammatory and heals damaged cartilage. Can cause liver damage and aggravate diabetes, low blood pressure, ulcers, and glaucoma, so have a doctor monitor you if you take this supplement.
Avoiding Heavy Purses and Fat Wallets
Heavy bags or purses can affect the curve of your spine since they change your balance when you walk. Weigh your shoulder bag, backpack, or briefcase on the bathroom scale. If it’s more than 10 percent of your body weight, pare it down. Similarly, a thick wallet should not be kept in the back pocket when sitting, since it puts extra pressure on the sciatic nerve which is a leading cause of lower back pain.
Stress is a leading cause of back pain, since it causes your muscles to contract which puts extra pressure on your spine. Yoga is a great way to relieve stress.
Getting A Good Night’s Sleep
A good mattress is extremely important to avoid back pain. A soft mattress can push your back out of alignment, so a medium to firm mattress is a much better choice if you find that you often wake up with back aches. Remember, we often spend 6 to 8 hours of each day in bed, so a good mattress is well worth it.
Correct Sleeping Position
Some sleeping positions are better than others for supporting your back. Sleeping on your side is the most common position, and is often recommended for back pain, but this can also cause spine alignment issues because of the positioning of your hips. If sleeping on your side causes pain, you can put a pillow between your knees to fix alignment issues.
For other back issues, particularly in the lower back, sleeping on your back can be more beneficial. Again, if this position does not help, try a pillow underneath your knees. Experiment with some of these to see which works best for you and for your back. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for sleeping without pain, generally sleeping on your stomach is not recommended. This tends to create the most strain on the back and can exacerbate back problems.
As you can seen, just a few simple adjustments to your daily routine such as exercise and good posture can help you live free of back pain.
How To RELIEVE Back Pain
If you’ve gone and ignored some or all of the ideas above and now are suffering from a sore back, here are some tips for managing it:
Resting sore muscles can help to ease pain, but remain mobile. Staying in bed more than one or two days can actually make your pain worse and lead to other problems, such as stiff joints and muscle weakness.
Massage therapy is effective in reducing pain, stress, and symptoms associated with chronic lower back pain. I can vouch for this one personally!! It stimulates the circulation of the lymph system, which decreases inflammation…and even better, there are no side effects.
Hot and/or Cold Treatment
The benefits of using hot and cold treatments vary from person to person. But this simple technique can be invaluable. Cold treatments such as ice packs reduce inflammation and using a hot water bottle or something else warm helps with stiffness and eases the pain.
Taking painkillers may seem like a fairly obvious strategy to cure your back pain, but many people tend to bypass this method, believing medicine will merely mask the pain and you’ll injure yourself more. In fact, you will not cause any further damage, it will simply ease the pain making it slightly easier to deal with.
Smoking will reduce the body’s ability to repair itself, increasing chances of inflammation and interfering with absorption of calcium. So cut it out when experiencing back pain, in both mild or chronic cases.
Aquatic Therapy and Whirlpools
This can include exercises done in warm, therapeutic pools — the buoyancy of the water helps ease strain on joints — to encourage strengthening of muscles, gentle stretching, or floating to relax the muscles and release tension. Whirlpool baths work on the same principle: The heat encourages muscle relaxation and the movement of the water increases circulation.
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows 12 weeks of weekly yoga classes improved back function and reduced symptoms in people with chronic lower back pain. The pain reduction continued six months after the classes began and participants were able to use less medication to manage their lower back pain.
For some people, back pain can be eased with corsets and braces, typically worn under your clothing. They will temporarily reduce pressure on the discs, provide back support, and keep the spine stable during healing.
Try Tai Chi
Unlike any other types of martial arts, the ancient Chinese practice of tai chi is gentle. And that means it is perfect for a painful back. It is recommended because it increases your body awareness, involves every part of the body, and can be done by anyone of any age.
Remember….a healthy back is vital to be able to enjoy your life to its fullest! Don’t take it for granted!