Steering Clear of Back Pain

Don’t feel alone if you have experienced back pain in your life: Four out of five people experience back pain at some point. It is surprisingly the fifth most common reason that people visit the doctor. Back pain takes many forms, ranging from a persistent dull ache to sudden sharp pain, and it also has many causes. Many people experience back pain because they are sedentary, overweight or have had a history of back problems. It can result from a sprain, fracture, or other accidental injury or from a disease or medical condition, such as spinal stenosis, arthritis or fibromyalgia. The good news is that most of the time, lower back pain usually gets better within a few days or weeks, and surgery is rarely necessary.

Use the following simple self-help strategies to help prevent back pain and stop it from coming back to cause problems in your busy life:

1. Incorporate more exercise in your life. When you have back pain you may assume that you need to rest to make it feel better. And in fact one or two days might help, but any more than that and you could increase your pain. Being physically active could actually help to relive your pain as long as it is not too strenuous and it incorporates both the posterior and anterior muscle groups in your core area. Exercise can help ease inflammation and muscle tension by keeping the blood and nutrients flowing to the area(s) that are affected. Stretching is important to keep muscles pliable and reduce stiffness. Stay consistent with your exercises even if you can only stand a few minutes!
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2. Stop Smoking! Nicotine has been found to reduce the flow of blood to your spinal discs which restricts important nutrients from reaching these areas. Smokers have been found to be more vulnerable to back pain, so stop smoking!

3. Watch your weight. If you are carrying extra pounds, especially in your midsection, you could be making your back pain worse. Extra weight has a tendency to shift your center of gravity and place extra strain on your lower back. Try to stay within 10 pounds of your ideal weight to help control back pain.

4. Control your Posture. If you sit at a desk for most of the day, then you should ensure that you have the right chair to help you maintain the correct posture. The best type of chair for preventing back pain is one with a straight back or one that has low-back support. You will need to keep your knees a little higher than your hips while you are seated, and using a stool to prop your feet on is not uncommon. If you are standing most of the day, try to stay erect and keep your stomach tight if possible. Use a stool to rest one foot on at a time if you can and switch feet about every 15 minutes if possible.

5. Use correct lifting techniques. Be sure that you don’t bend over to lift heavy objects! Instead, bend your knees and squat, tightening your abdominal muscles and hold the object close to your body as you stand. Never twist your torso as you are lifting, and if you can, push heavy objects rather than pull. Pushing is a little easier on the back.

Use these strategies to help reduce or control your back pain unless your doctor has advised you against any form of exercise or has restricted your movement. Since back pain is a common ailment, it pays to follow these strategies as a proactive measure against any possible future back problems.

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