Back pain is the second-most common reason to visit the doctor, with 4 out of 5 people experiencing it during their lives. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the risk of back pain increases with age, stress, poor nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity.
There are, however, lifestyle changes and choices that can help prevent back pain in the first place. If you already experience back pain, there are also some simple tips you can follow to manage it.
How to Prevent Back Problems
Exercise carefully. Keeping your back muscles strong is one of the best ways to prevent back pain. You should do stretching and muscle-strengthening exercises at least 2 days a week. Remember, if you are lifting heavy weights, lift with your legs to avoid unnecessary strain on your back. When picking up something heavy, straighten your back and let your leg muscles take the brunt of the weight.
Don’t smoke. Among the other negative health effects caused by smoking, it can also lead to back pain. Smoking cuts off the flow of nutrient-containing blood to your spinal discs, making smokers vulnerable to back pain.
Check your posture. Bad posture (slouching, hunching over) can weaken the tissue in your lower back and lead to problems with your discs, muscles, and joints. To prevent deterioration that causes back pain, you have to get into the habit of consciously correcting your own posture. It’s easy to get distracted by work or other responsibilities but try to catch yourself by using the rule of “curve reversal,” meaning stretching away from what has you leaning over (for example, your computer).
Don’t stand on one foot for a long time, and remember to stretch your neck muscles from one shoulder to another. Some tips to help maintain good posture are: don’t sit in soft, spongy chairs, check your mattress support, get a pillow that supports your neck, and switch to ergonomic chairs for work or at your desk.
How to Manage Back Issues
Exercise. Although it may seem counterproductive, being physically active can ease back pain. Spine specialist E. Kano Mayer, MD, believes that “motion is lotion.” Any amount of exercise, even when you are suffering from an episode of back pain, can accelerate the recovery period. Seniors are recommended to get 1 to 2 hours of aerobic activity (walking) and 2 days of strengthening exercises per week (aquatic exercise, core strengthening, lumbar stabilization).
Reduce inflammation. Inflammation is the main cause of various chronic pains. The foods you eat, including refined carbs (flour), sugars, and processed foods can increase inflammation and your chances of worsening your back pain. Forming a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (plant nutrients) can help reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
Cold and warm compress. When back pain eventually strikes, try a cold compress to ease inflammation and muscle spasms. Apply the compress for 20 minutes at a time every 2 hours. Note: Older adults with diabetes or other nerve conditions may want to avoid cold compresses, as they could risk skin damage. If the pain persists after 2 or 3 days, consider using a heat pack to stimulate blood flow and range of motion by relaxing your muscles and reducing stiffness.
Wellzesta’s Life and Elevate platforms give users interactive and intellectually stimulating resources to help combat and maintain issues that pertain to them.
Users receive daily wellness content through videos and articles that allow them to learn tips and suggestions to manage back pain. Life and Elevate’s physically-focused wellness videos guide users through stretches, yoga, and back-friendly exercise.
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