Back pain is one of the most common reasons why people see their doctor and miss work. There are many reasons for low back pain such as aging, overuse from sports or work, wrong use, medical conditions such as arthritis, injuries or fracture, being overweight, and surgery. Complex as the condition is, the good news is that there are some simple strategies that can prevent back pain and keep it from returning.
- Exercise: A sedentary lifestyle is a major cause of back pain. Lack of exercise increases stiffness and weakens muscles and causes or worsens the pain. Exercise strengthens and stretches the muscles that support the spine. That’s why physical therapy programs to treat back pain involve exercises to lengthen and strengthen the back and stomach and hip muscles. Exercise helps maintain alignment of the vertebrae, keeps the muscles supple, reduces the risk of strains, and prevents back pain. Harvard health experts recommend low-risk, high-benefit activities such as bicycling, swimming, and walking.
- Weight loss: Being overweight stresses the back and causes pain, more so if the extra pounds are in your midsection. Abdominal fat makes the pain worse as it shifts the center of gravity and increases the strain on the lower back. So maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for a healthy, pain-free back.
- Quit smoking: Research links low back pain to smoking. A 2014 study from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, suggested that smoking increases brain activity that reduces resistance to chronic back pain. The researchers recommended that smokers join smoking cessation programs or other behavioral interventions that can help them quit the habit.
- Reduce stress: Using the right techniques when lifting or carrying loads can help keep back ache at bay by reducing stress. As far as possible, don’t carry heavy loads. When carrying a heavy backpack, don’t throw just one strap over a shoulder — distribute the weight evenly by using both its straps. Use a bag that has different sized compartments. The hip strap can provide additional support. Always bend from your knees when picking up the pack. Use a backpack with wheels for very heavy loads.
- Develop back-friendly habits:
- Sit and stand properly. When seated, sit upright with both feet on the floor. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle and keep them a bit higher than your hips. If your feet don’t reach the floor, use a small support like a stool. Keep one foot on a stool when doing tasks like ironing.
- Use your hands to support your body when you are bending from the knees.
- Don’t sit or stand in the same position for a long time – move around, walk about, stretch.
- Space out chores like vacuuming – spend only 10 minutes on it and do rooms in chunks. Upright, bagless vacuums come with innovative features and easily adjustable setting to make the job easier.
If your back pain becomes chronic, don’t delay getting treatment. Leading health care centers in New York provide effective non-invasive pain management therapies that can strengthen your back, keep it healthy, and improve your quality of life.