Is a sore back interfering with your life? You are not alone! Nearly four out of five people experience back pain at some point in their lifetime. Back pain takes various forms, from a persistent dull ache to sudden sharp pain, and has many causes. Sometimes it results from a sprain, fracture, or other accidental injury. It can stem from a disease or medical condition, such as herniated disc, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal through which the spinal cord runs). However, many people develop back pain because they’re overweight or sedentary.
Most lower back pain usually gets better within a few days or weeks, and surgery is rarely necessary. However, even small episodes of back pain are the result of weakness in the core muscles and usually lead to longer, more painful episodes in the future if you don’t take care of the underlying problem. Here are a few tips that are surprisingly effective at preventing back pain and keeping it from returning:
- Get more exercise. If your back is hurting, you may think the best way to get relief is to limit exercise and to rest. Studies show that frequent changes in position and regular physical activity can help ease inflammation and muscle tension faster in the back.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds, especially in your midsection, can make back pain worse by shifting your center of gravity and putting strain on your lower back. Staying within 10 pounds of your ideal weight may help control back pain as well as all the other health benefits.
- Quit smoking. Nicotine in smoke, restricts the flow of nutrient-containing blood to spinal discs, so smokers are especially vulnerable to back pain.
- Sleeping position. If you’re prone to back pain, talk with our physical therapists about the best sleeping position. What is most important is to be in a comfortable position that you can sleep in to achieve the most rest. Sleeping on your side with your knees pulled up slightly toward your chest with a pillow between the knees is best during the first 15-30 minutes in bed. Prefer to sleep on your back? Put one pillow under your knees and another under your lower back. Try to avoid sleeping on your front.
- Improve your posture. Find a good chair to sit on. Avoid soft couches or chairs that put you in a slouched position. Find a chair that will allow you to keep your feet flat on the floor when you sit. With standing, try to alternate your positions and walk around if possible. Have one foot forward when standing and switch this every 10 minutes.
- Watch how you lift. Don’t bend over from the waist to lift heavy objects. Bend your knees and squat, pulling in your stomach muscles and holding the object close to your body as you stand up. Don’t twist your body while lifting. If you can, push rather than pull heavy objects.
- Use supportive shoes. A good pair of shoes, with cushion can reduce pressure on your back. Avoid using high heels as they shift your center of gravity and strain your lower back.
- Keep your wallet in your front pocket. Don’t put your wallet in the back pocket of your pants. Sitting on a wallet shifts your balance when sitting causing discomfort and back pain.
- Avoid heavy bags. If you use a briefcase or handbag, make sure you have only what you need to lighten the load. Use a bag that can strap over the opposite shoulder, so the weight is more evenly distributed. When carrying a heavy bag or case without straps, switch hands frequently to avoid putting all the stress on one side of the body.
There is a lot that you can do to prevent back pain and alleviate quickly when it starts. The important part is to work with your physical therapist to address the underlying cause of your back pain. This puts you on the right path to a healthy back that will support you pain free for a lifetime. To learn more about our back and neck program, helping you attain a strong, healthy back, contact Physical Therapy and Rehab today!