Struggling with back pain is the bane of a large portion of the population. Millions of people try dozens of methods to deal with back pain, but very few approaches are actually effective in the long run. Here, we look at a few simple techniques that can help prevent, reduce or eliminate back pain from your life.
The Magic of Movement
The human body is a masterpiece of movement. Every joint, every muscle, every nerve and every bone is designed to work in perfect harmony with its surroundings. The body has lots of soft tissue, but it is one of the most resilient creations in the world. It can take a licking and keep on ticking, as the saying goes.
But even the superior design and functional elegance of the human body has its breaking points; several, in fact. One movement in the wrong direction or a stretch just an inch too much can cause damage that can take days, weeks or months to heal. In addition, strenuous physical activity or traumatic injury can cause pain that lasts just as long – or even longer.
One of the secrets of dealing with back pain is movement. Not just any movement, but proper movement with a purpose. Another name for this is exercise. Not playing chess or doing Sudoku, but purely physical exercise. The body is designed for movement, and the best way to keep it healthy is to keep moving.
Unfortunately, the majority of people in modern societies have jobs that force them to stay put in one chair for eight hours a day, five days a week for several years. This can be a major cause of back pain.
Because the body is designed for movement, it has to be kept in motion for a good part of the day. If your job doesn’t allow that, then compensate in other ways. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator; stretch yourself every 20 minutes while you work; take to cycling or swimming on the weekends instead of going on road trips in your car; make your own bed in the morning; take the dog for extra-long walks; in fact, anything that keeps you moving will help you gradually but steadily reduce your back pain. This happens because the muscles get stronger and are able to support your bones much better.
A word of caution is in order here. The wrong type of movement can undo all the good that your other activities do you. Lift heavy objects with your knees bent and your back straight.
Pure Posturing for Back Health
Poor posture is a significant cause of lower back pain. Sitting in a chair for up to 8 hours a day or more is sure to lead to back problems of the worst sort. Since most of us have a tendency to slouch when we sit for prolonged periods, it will be a conscious effort to keep a straight back all the time.
However, practice makes perfect, and anything that you consciously do for 21 days is likely to become a habit – good or bad. So, practice keeping your back straight one day at a time; in fact, try it for 10 minutes first. Once you realize how hard it can be, you’ll put more conscious effort into the exercise. Over time, it will become second nature, and your lower back will thank you for it.
Another posture-improving activity is to go ergonomic whenever you can – your chair at work, because you spend most of the day sitting on it; your car seat, because you likely spend a significant amount of time commuting in heavy traffic; your recliner or couch at home, because those are the worst enemies of proper posture; even the chairs at your dinner table, if you can. If you can’t afford ergonomic furniture – and it can be quite expensive – then use a cushion to support your lower back. It ddoesn’tcost you more than a few dollars but it can save you a whole lot of pain.
Some Like It Cold
Cold compresses are great for getting rid of many different kinds of aches and pains. The lower temperature reduces inflammation significantly, so this is best done when you first detect the pain or if the pain has been caused by strenuous activity or a minor injury.
The best way to make a cold compress is to keep it simple. Ice cubes wrapped in a towel is basically all you’ll need for this. Make sure you remove the compress every 15-20 minutes to give your skin a break because we all know what prolonged exposure to intense cold can lead to – frostbite.
A hot water bottle might seem to be more soothing than something ice-cold against your skin, but resist the temptation because all it does is aggravate the inflammation and make the pain worse after you remove it.
Rid Yourself of Lifestyles from Hell
Lifestyle is not just about inactivity; it can also be very basic in nature, such as your food habits. Poor dietary intake not only causes obesity and digestive problems, but can lead to back pain, too. Excessive weight puts extra pressure on your spinal column – a sure precursor to back pain.
Find a good diet that you can stick with as a lifestyle change rather than a fad. Exercise more and try to reduce excess fat in natural ways; these are often more permanent than crash dieting or taking “magical” fat cutters.
Smoking is another back-breaker. Scientific studies have shown that smokers are more likely to develop spine and bone problems including osteoporosis. This, in turn, can lead to what are known as ‘compression fractures’ in the spine. If just the sound of that is painful, imagine what it will be like for real.
Studies also show that 60 per cent of women who wear high heels experience lower back pain symptoms. Trade in style for comfort and your pumps for sensible but stylish flats.
It’s time to take ‘back’ your life. Claim it; it’s yours.