Think that back pain is just an unavoidable discomfort in your everyday life? Well think again.
A lot of people assume that back pain is something they simply have to live with – but this really isn’t the case. Sure, many of us do suffer with back pain on a regular basis – and it’s estimated that back pain affects around 80% of all Americans, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. In fact, for most people with back pain, there are more control options and solutions available than you might think.
About 95% of lower back pain can be treated without the need for surgery.
Buggering up your back is easy to do. The spine might seem pretty sturdy when you use it every day for bending, lifting, and staying erect – but it’s actually quite sensitive. Something as simple as sleeping at a wrong angle, failing to pay attention to your discomfort when at work, or forgetting to stretch before you work out could leave you with serious pain.
On top of that – some back pain can be caused by basic wear and tear – after all, we put a lot of stress on our backs over time – and you’re going to have to feel the effects of that eventually. Following, we’ll take a look at some of the most common ways people wreck their backs, and what you can do to avoid or overcome these problems for a healthier – less pain-filled life.
Problem 1: Sitting, Sitting, and Sitting Some More
How much time a day do you spend on your butt?
If you’re honest, the chances are that it’s a lot more time than you’d like to admit. We sit when we’re driving to work in the car, we sit when we’re typing at our desks in the office, and we sit and watch the television when we get home. Most people spend the vast majority of their day off their feet. While this might sound like a dream come true – it actually has a seriously negative impact on your back. Why?
The discs in your spine are spongy, and cushion the vertebrae of your spine. However, these have a limited blood supply. As you move, fluid circulates naturally through those discs, and when you sit it is wrung out – leaving your spine lacking nutrition. In other words, you feed your healthy back with regular motion, and sitting still for long periods of time is more likely to do long-term damage.
Perhaps the worst thing that you can do for your back is to sit and lean forward. This makes you flex your spine and lock your pelvis, which puts additional pressure on the vertebrae. The uneven level of pressure you are exposed to puts you at a higher risk of spinal injuries. This means that if you’re going to sit, you should try these following tactics:
- Get up and move more. Unless you’re driving, try to force yourself to move around at least once every twenty minutes – even if you’re just going to grab a glass of water.
- Keep your spine aligned properly and hold your reading material at eye level instead of bending over.
- Purchase an ergonomic chair that supports your back, and keeps your feet flat against the floor. If your chair doesn’t support the curve of your lower back, you might consider placing a small pillow there.
Problem 2: Forgetting to Strengthen the Spine
Just like you need to strengthen the muscles in your arms if you want to lift heavy objects – if you need your spine to support your weight (which you definitely do), you’re going to need to try some exercises that will keep it healthy and supple.
Weak abdominal muscles are one of the most significant contributors to back pain. If you don’t focus on strengthening your abdominal area, then you won’t have the right amount of muscular support required to provide a stable basis for the area surrounding the lower back. In other words, it’s like trying to keep a lollipop standing up alone without any support.
A further problem of failing to strengthen your abdominals is that your pelvic tilt will increase. This creates an imbalance in things like lumbar disc pressure and increases your risk of rupture. Weak abdominals also increase wear and strain on the facet joints throughout your spine – which increases back pain. What’s more, weak abdominal muscles can result in extension of the stomach wall which contributes to a poor posture. If your posture is bad, your centre of gravity changes and the tension on your lower back increases.
Exercising your abdominals to treat lower back pain is one of the best ways to overcome some of the more common forms of discomfort. There are a range of great abdominal exercises out there that can help to address this form of pain – and one particular form (the standing abdominal exercise) can be ideal for completing as part of your daily routine. To do this exercise:
- Stand up straight with your feet together, contracting your glutes
- Squeeze the abdominal muscles to tilt your belly button upwards while drawing it in towards your spine.
- Hold your position for five to ten seconds, then relax
- Repeat as often as possible
The great thing about this exercise is that you can do it wherever you are without drawing much attention to yourself.
Problem 3: Overworking and Poor Form
Many of us notice that we have back pain long before it becomes a serious problem. However, we believe that it’s something we simply have to live with – so that means that we ignore it and continue to go about our day as normal – causing additional stress to the spine, and making the issue even worse.
Overworking your spine by lifting heavy boxes every day without the correct form, or forcing yourself to engage in regular workouts or athletic events without the right sports massage or relaxation techniques could mean that you end up with serious spinal problems in the long-run. You need to be prepared to adjust your lifestyle as much as possible to protect your back.
One particularly important way to avoid overworking your spine is to learn proper lifting techniques. This is essential for people who have very active lifestyles or physically demanding jobs. Improper bending and lifting almost always causes back injury, and to prevent it, you’ll need to learn how to engage your abs and use them to support your back. Follow these steps:
- Bend your knees and keep your spine as straight as possible – don’t be tempted to bend at the waist.
- Keep whatever you’re lifting as close to you as possible – hug it if you must. The further away you hold the weight you’re living, the more stressful the lift is to your back.
- Never hold an item lower than your knees or higher than your armpit
- Don’t twist, turn, or pivot when lifting. Point your feet towards the item you’re trying to move and face it as you pick it up – like you’re hugging a friend.
- Never hold something that weighs more than 20% of your body weight – no matter how much you’re getting paid for it!
Remember, even simple tasks like washing the dishes or taking out the trash can bend your spine out of shape if you don’t prepare properly. Movements don’t have to be highly exaggerated or involve a heavy object to bugger your back. If your mind is on autopilot and you’re not focusing on what you’re doing, a bad bend could do serious damage to your spine. Simply put – no matter what you’re doing, if it involves your spine, you need to focus.
Problem 4: Getting and Staying Stressed
Got too much to handle on your plate? It’s no wonder your back hurts!
People hold their stress in a range of different ways. Some people hold stress in their heads – worrying about a problem so much that they can’t even think straight. Other people hold stress in their body – tensing up their back muscles and making spinal pain worse. The more you feel this pain, the more stress you get, and the more pain you feel – and round and round you go.
So, what can you do about it?
The chances are that you’ll always have at least some stress in your life – there’s nothing you can do about that. However, you can try to reduce the amount of stress you feel. For instance, looking after your health and setting aside time for relaxation with a little sleep, and massage can be a great first step.
Other tips for reducing stress:
- Stop trying to do everything yourself – it’s okay to ask for help
- Rate your tasks according to how urgent and important they are
- Make extra time for yourself
- Get more sleep – your body loves sleep and recovers from stress when you’re dreaming
- Be active every day
- Eat healthy foods – and when you do eat – relax! Avoid caffeine that increases your stressful feelings
- Interact with friends and family regularly and turn to them for support
Stress can seem very difficult to control – but it doesn’t have to be something that runs your life. Simply knowing when to say “no” and understanding your own limits can help a great deal!
Problem 5: Ignoring Massage Therapy
Finally, we all know that massage can be incredible for treating back pain. In fact, most doctors recommend that patients go and see a massage therapist if they struggle with regular back-based discomforts. However, many individuals leave the problem so long that it develops into something hugely complicated. What’s more, they then visit a massage clinic and expect the person they see to be able to fix the problem instantly.
Massage therapy can help with a range of back and spinal problems – from muscle strain in the upper, and lower back, to osteoarthritis of the spine, and even fibromyalgia. However, if you want massage to work for you, then you can’t simply expect to use it as a miracle cure after years of neglecting your health. Massage should instead be used as part of your regular healthy routine. Just like you devote a certain amount of time each week to exercising and meditation, you should be thinking about how often you need to schedule a regular massage appointment.
Massage is the fastest growing health treatment in the world increasing in popularity by over 15% each year. Massage is gradually becoming more widely accepted among the medical community as a serious treatment for back pain and other serious problems. Research has shown that massage therapy has several great benefits for people suffering from back pain, including:
- Higher endorphin levels – the levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain increase when we get massages. This mood enhancement can reduce anxiety and depression, which can also minimise pain and increase the speed of recovery times. This is particularly important for people who suffer from chronic back problems – and can often end up feeling isolated and stressed.
- Lower muscle tension – the muscle relaxation that is involved in massage therapy can help to reduce pain caused by tight muscles, improve flexibility, and even help you to achieve a longer, more healthy night of sleep.
- Increased blood flow and circulation – finally, massage helps to prompt the proper flow of blood around the body, which brings much-needed nutrition to tissues and muscles. This can aid in recovery of muscle soreness from soft tissue injuries and problems with physical activity.
When the alternative is agonising back pain – regular massage sessions don’t seem like much of an investment.