Oh, My Aching Back! Tips to Relieve Back Pain
Millions of Americans suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. That stat’s not surprising, considering almost everything we do requires us to use your backs.
According to Discovery Health, approximately 60-90 percent of all Americans will experience at least one back injury in their lives. Half of these people will experience multiple episodes of back problems. Back pain ranges from dull and achy to stiff and sharp and can be acute, chronic or recurrent acute.
Fortunately, back problems are rarely the result of a single activity or accident and result over time from pulling, straining, stretching or spraining. Pinpointing the source of the pain can be problematic as it can originate from muscle, soft tissue, ligaments, cartilage, discs and nerves. Other times, the source of an injury is obvious, such as a car wreck or isolated injury.
To help minimize potential back pain issues, heed this advice:
Avoid exerting too much force on your back.
Lifting or moving heavy objects can cause injury. When lifting, kneel down on one knee with the other foot flat on the floor as near as possible to the item you are lifting. Lift with your legs and not your back, keeping the object close to your body at all times. Ask someone for help and remember that pushing is better than pulling a heavy object.
Modify any repetitious activity.
Repeating certain movements can lead to muscle fatigue or injury, particularly if you’re stretching to the limit of your range of motion or using awkward body positioning. Think about how you can modify repetitive tasks at work to reduce physical demands on your body.
Use lifting devices or adjustable equipment to help you lift loads.
If you’re on the phone most of the day, try a headset. If you work at a computer, make sure that your monitor and chair are positioned properly. Avoid unnecessary bending, twisting and reaching. Limit the time you spend carrying heavy briefcases, purses and bags. Consider using a rolling suitcase.
Be careful when sitting and standing.
Slouching exaggerates your back’s natural curves, which can lead to muscle fatigue and injury. When standing, keep one foot forward of the other, with knees slightly bent, to take the pressure off your lower back. When you are sitting, keep your knees slightly higher than your hips to provide good lower back support.
Sleep on your side.
Sleeping on your back puts 55 pounds of pressure on your back. Putting a couple of pillows under your knees cuts the pressure in half. Lying on your side with a pillow between your knees also reduces the pressure.
Use a stool to reach anything higher than shoulder level.
Manage and address your stress.
Professional and personal stress can lead to muscle tension and tightness, which can contribute to or worsen back pain. use positive coping mechanisms — such as deep-breathing exercises, taking a walk around the block or talking about your frustrations with a trusted friend — to handle stress in a healthy way.
Maintaining a healthy weight minimizes stress on your back, and exercise can strengthen your back and stomach muscles. For most healthy adults, the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity — preferably spread throughout the week — and strength training exercises at least twice a week.
Falls can seriously injure your back. Remove anything from your work space that might cause you to trip. Consider wearing low-heeled shoes with nonslip soles.
Listen to your body.
If you must sit or stand for a prolonged period, change your position often. Try taking a 30-second break every 15 minutes to stretch, move or relax. Or, stand up, stretch and change positions each time you answer the phone, make a call or do another routine task.
If you smoke, stop.
Nicotine restricts the flow of blood to the discs that cushion your vertebrae, increasing the likelihood you will suffer back pain.
If you suffer from back pain, seek the advice of your family doctor.
— Robyn Madden is an attorney with the Strom Law Firm in Columbia, South Carolina.