Back pain is very common to most of us at one time or another and can have many different causes. In fact back pain is a common reason for absence from work and doctor visits. For many people, back pain seems like an unavoidable discomfort but you may have more control than you think.
Here are some tips to help reduce your back pain today.
Get up and move
Once, experts said that bed rest was best for bad backs. Not anymore. Study after study shows that movement helps keep muscles supple and boosts circulation, bringing oxygen and nutrients to heal strained spots. Don’t expect to play tennis tomorrow. Do expect that after a brief rest, you will rise and go about as much of your daily routine as possible, taking it as easy as you need to.
Then Stretch and strengthen.
Add stretching and gentle strengthening exercises, too. After a few weeks, start doing easy abdominal exercises. These strengthen your core – the “inner corset” of muscles that steady your spine. (Go easy on back exercises, though). One study found that walking provided more relief. Aim to exercise for a half hour five days a week – whether you walk, swim, or do aerobics or another activity you like.
Find time for relaxing stretches such as yoga
Many of us unconsciously hold years of tension in our upper and lower backs. There’s some evidence that mental stress can cause physical stress that could push back muscles past the tipping point, leading to pain. If chronic stress is tensing you up, you need regular doses of healing stretches. Yoga is the perfect form, but regular, slow stretching will work fine, too. Better yet, don’t let anger, frustration, and other strong emotions affect your physical well-being.
Walk while you talk on the phone
In one University of California, Los Angeles study of 681 people with lower-pain, those who walked briskly for three hours a week felt better physically and mentally, while those who performed regular back exercises had more pain. Movement of any kind improves the flow of oxygen and nutrients to muscles and redistributes the gel inside the shock-absorbing disks that cushion your vertebrae. In contrast, sitting allows the gel to squash to one side or the other, leaving you with uneven cushioning between the joints of your spine.
If you’re sitting, take a stretch break every 20 minutes
Sitting still for hours deprives your back muscles of oxygen and nutrients, allowing the disks between your vertebrae to bulge if you’re not using perfect posture. Over time, muscles grow tight, and bulging disk can press on nerves, causing pain.
Reconsider the myth of the firm mattress
Spanish back-pain sufferers who slept on medium-firm mattresses for 90 nights cut their morning aches more than those who snoozed on firm beds. Beds with a bit of “give” seem to support and cushion stiffer muscles and joints better than harder, less yielding mattresses – especially for people with lower-back pain.
Uncross your legs
Love to cross your legs? There’s surprising reasons why this sitting position feels so relaxing: Studies show it literally puts muscles in your back and abdomen into “sleep” mode, decreasing electrical activity. The problem with that is muscles that should be supporting your back are now off-duty, leaving your spine literally “hanging” on various muscles and ligaments. Over time, this stretches some and tightens others, setting the stage for the day when the tiniest move – bending to tie your shoe, or reaching for the breakfast cereal at the back of a shelf – will lead to painful back spasms.
Women, lighten your purses
Oversized hand bags, often made with heavy quilted leather and decorated with equally weighty chain handles, are great for carrying everything under the sun – but experts find that they can weigh 7 to 10 pounds. At that weight, these over-the-shoulder suitcases throw off your back’s finely balanced architecture. You hike up one shoulder, putting stress on your neck, upper back, and shoulders, which leads to not only upper-back pain but also a stiff neck.
Switch from old -fashioned high heels to high-style flats
Walking in high heels is like walking downhill all day – you have to lean back avoid the feeling that you’re falling forward, a move that compresses the disk in your lower back. Save your back by switching to shoes with heels that are less than an inch high. Look for a snug, firm heel counter – the part of the shoe that supports the sides and back of your heel. That gives you better foot control while walking and actually help supports your arch.
If back pain is getting you down, these are some great tips to try to ease the pain.
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