Feeling that familiar twinge of pain in your back? You aren’t alone. In fact, back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor. But there are things you can do to help prevent it.
Back pain has many causes. Acute back pain comes on suddenly and is often caused by a muscle or ligament strain from a fall or heavy lifting. Chronic back pain lasts for longer than three months and can be caused by:
- Bulging or ruptured disks
- Scoliosis or other skeletal irregularities
So if the condition is so common, how can you avoid it? Give these five tips a try:
1. Watch your weight. Carrying extra weight, particularly around your abdomen, shifts your body’s center of gravity. This puts strain on your lower back.
Aim to stay within 10 pounds of your ideal weight. Not sure what that weight is? Your doctor can take a look at your height, weight and medical history and let you know.
Lose the extra weight with small tweaks. Take a walk around the office in the morning and in the afternoon. Add more fruits and vegetables into your diet and subtract white bread and fatty foods.
2. Exercise your back. Exercising is an essential part of tip No.1, and it’s also been found to help ease inflammation and muscle tension from back pain. But it’s also a tip in and of itself. Don’t stick to just cardio — add in regular strength training exercises, as well.
Incorporate both weight-lifting and weight-bearing activities that strengthen the back and abdomen. Along with regular exercise, you’ll also want to add stretching to your routine to keep the muscles of the back loose.
3. Rethink how you sleep. If you frequently suffer from back pain, how you sleep may be to blame.
How we sleep, though, is largely a personal preference. You can adapt your preferred sleeping position to be healthier for your back.
If you sleep on your back, place a pillow under your knees. If you sleep on your stomach, place a pillow under your hips. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees.
You may also want to evaluate your mattress. You want one that supports the body but isn’t too firm or too soft.
4. Use good lifting technique. Our first inclination when lifting an object is to bend over at the waist. Don’t do that.
Instead, bend your knees and squat down, then lift the object up using your legs for leverage. Don’t twist the body as you lift.
If you can, push rather than pull when moving heavy objects. Pushing is easier on the back.
5. Sit properly. Most of us sit in chairs for the majority of the day, so how we sit is vitally important.
Choose a chair that supports your lower back. Sit up straight and regularly change positions. If you find yourself leaning back in your chair, put a pillow behind the small of your back to force the body into proper posture.
If you regularly experience back pain, you may want to consider sitting on an exercise ball at your desk for at least some of the time. Sitting on the ball requires you to contract the muscles in your abdomen, hip and leg muscles to stay upright, which helps distribute the weight of the body.
Plagued by back pain? Talk with your doctor about what the underlying cause may be and how it can be treated. Find a doctor here.