More than 70-80% of people suffer from neck and/or back pain at some point in their lives. People over 30 are at greater risk, and once you experience back pain, there is an increased chance that it will return.
Staying active and keeping our bodies moving helps prevent injury by increasing our strength and mobility, decreasing stress, and keeping our joints fluid.
Excess weight, especially in your stomach, shifts your center of gravity forward and puts additional strain on your back muscles. This increases your chance of developing back pain. Try to stay within 10 pounds of your ideal weight to avoid pain.
Exercise and eating healthy will benefit you with your weight goals. Everyday activities including walking, biking and swimming help to increase back strength, among other health benefits. Aim to do them at least three times a week.
Stretching throughout the day helps keep your muscles flexible, helps avoid injury, and can prevent back pain. Our partners at Complete Joint & Spine Therapy have provided these everyday stretches (click here) which can increase strength and balance, keep joints fluid, and help maintain proper posture.
Yoga and Tai Chi are also very helpful in preventing back pain. They both provide fluid movement, increase strength and mobility, and decrease stress. Many yoga exercises are gentle on the spine and can be practiced anywhere.
Drinking at least eight glasses of water every day is essential not only to overall health, but spine health as well. Lack of proper hydration can even be a cause of back pain.
Our spinal discs are the shock absorbers for the spine. The inner portion of each disc, the nucleus pulposus, is primarily made up of water. When the nucleus pulposus is dehydrated, it can shrink or become compromised and not able to bear the weight of the body. This can lead to swelling and pain.
Natural rehydration of the discs occurs while we sleep. So it’s important to replenish our bodies throughout the day. If you’re thirsty, your body is already dehydrated.
Did you know that nicotine reduces the level of oxygen flowing to your bones, spinal discs, muscles and tissues? Smoking can also prevent the proper absorption of nutrients our spinal discs need to function properly. This lack of oxygen and nutrients can lead to painful spinal conditions such as disc compression, disc degeneration, herniated discs, and more.
If you’ve been scheduled for a back surgery and your doctor has recommended that you stop smoking, this is to help with your recovery process. We want to ensure you have an optimal recovery process and help get you back to a better quality of life.
Maintain Good Posture
Slumping or slouching on its own may not cause low back pain. But after the back has been strained or injured, bad posture can make pain worse. “Good posture” generally means your ears, shoulders, and hips are in a straight line. If this posture causes pain, you may have another condition such as a problem with a disc or bones in your back and we recommend you make an appointment with your doctor.
This everyday tip can help alleviate pressure off your lower back: When standing, place one foot forward of the other with your knees slightly bent.
Use Proper Lifting Techniques
Lifting heavy objects can contribute to strain on the back. Be sure you are using proper lifting techniques, by holding your load close to your body to avoid straining your back when lifting.
Remember to life with your legs, not your back: Kneel down on one knee with the other foot flat on the floor, as near as possible to the item you are lifting.
If you already suffer from back pain, when you have a lot of items to carry, it’s best to make more frequent trips than to try to carry too much at once.
Safely Perform Everyday Activities
When moving heavy items, pushing is easier on your back than pulling. When you do push, use your arms and legs to start the push with your weight behind it. This way you are not relying solely on your back to move the item and therefore will protect the muscles in your back from pain.
When vacuuming, hold the handle at your belly bundle to maintain good posture. It may feel awkward at first and take a bit longer, but it’s worth it.
Sleep Right, Sleep Tight
Getting plenty of rest is important so our bodies can rehydrate and reset as we sleep. If you’re a side sleeper and suffer from lower back pain, lie on your side with a pillow between your knees to reduce pressure. Try also alternating which side you sleep on to avoid muscle imbalance.
If you’re a back sleeper, place a pillow under your knees to relieve pressure on your back and allow your knees to rest in their natural curve state. If you’re a stomach sleeper, you may have back pain between the shoulders. Put a pillow under your lower abdomen and pelvis to ease the strain on the back.
Incorporate Massage Therapy
Massage therapy can be part of a prevention program as well as help in easing neck and back pain. Once considered just a luxury service, there are many benefits to massage therapy, including tension relief, increased circulation, and a general increase in overall well-being by stimulating endorphins and serotonin.
Counteract Technology Use
Modern technology certainly makes life easier in many ways, yet it can also wreak havoc on our health and even lead to headaches, neck pain, or back pain.
When you’re on your mobile device, gaming, or sitting at your workstation, you’re most likely hunched over, slouched down, and/or tweaking your neck. The average human head weighs 10 pounds in a neutral position. Every inch that your head is tilted forward, the pressure on the spine doubles. All that added pressure puts a strain on your neck, muscles, and spine.
To help counteract the effects of excess technology use, make sure you’re keeping proper posture. Keep your feet on the floor, roll your shoulders back, and keep your ears directly over your shoulders. Most importantly, get up from your chair/desk frequently to stretch, move, and reset your mind, body and spirit!
Get Some Sunshine & Stay Involved
It’s the little things in life that make all the difference. Spending time with the ones we love, enjoying the outdoors, and being a part of activities we enjoy, make life worthwhile. The doctors and staff at Abay Neuroscience Center wish you memorable moments with the people who make your world a better place.
The information on this page is for general education only and is designed to facilitate discussion with your doctor. You should always talk to your health care professional for diagnosis and treatment. If you have persistent back pain or would like to know more about treatment options available, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians.