Although determining the cause of back pain can be complicated, preventing pain is actually quite simple. It's all about relieving pressure, reducing strain, protecting the spine, and strengthening the muscles. Simply changing a few daily habits could make the difference in maintaining a healthy, pain-free back for the short and long term.
1. Sleep With a Pillow Under Your Knees
Elevating your legs slightly relieves pressure on your back as you sleep. Sleeping on your back puts an estimated 55 pounds of pressure on your spine. By placing a pillow under your knees, you can cut that pressure in half.
2. Work Your Core
The numerous health benefits of exercise are well known, but a regular strength training routine that focuses on the core muscles of the body can also help reduce your risk of back-related incidents, such as strains and muscle spasms. For a stronger, more flexible back, try to incorporate some sort of back and abdominal strengthening exercise into your workout at least twice a week.
3. Up Your Calcium and Vitamin D Intake
Strong bones can help prevent osteoporosis, one of the most common causes of back pain later in life, particularly for women. Keep the bones in your spine strong by consuming plenty of calcium and vitamin D, whether in milk, yogurt, leafy greens, or vitamin supplements. However, always consult you doctor before taking any kind of supplement.
4. Change Your Shoes
Comfortable, low-heeled shoes are best bets for back pain prevention as they reduce the strain on the back while standing. Sorry ladies—pumps with less than a one-inch heel are the best bet for your back.
5. Straighten Up
Good posture isn't just a way to look more proper. It protects the intricate pieces of your spine to keep them functioning and healthy. Bad posture puts strain and stress on the back and, over time, can actually change the architecture of the spine itself. Avoid rounding your shoulders, slouching, or bending sideways while standing.
6. Don't Slump Over Your Desk
When sitting in your office chair, use the same good posture techniques you would use while standing. Because many of us spend hours each day sitting down, it is absolutely critical that you maintain good posture and support your back. Choose a quality chair that provides firm support in the lower back area, and make sure your knees are a little higher than your hips when you sit.
Whether you are at an office party or a bar for happy hour, avoid sitting in an awkward position or standing in one place. Instead, move around the room. This prevents undue pressure on the spine, a result of standing in one place for too long.
8. Put Out That Cigarette
We all know smoking is a serious health risk, but numerous studies have found that smokers are also more likely than nonsmokers to experience back pain, particularly later in life. One reason for the higher risk is that nicotine restricts the blood flow to the spine's disks, and this can cause them to dry out, crack, or rupture. Smoking also reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood thus reducing nourishment for the muscles and tendons in the back. An unhealthy, weak back is more vulnerable to accidental strains and pulls that cause back pain.
9. Lighten Your Load
Back pain is frequently caused by improper or heavy lifting, but it doesn't happen only to those lifting heavy boxes on the job. Carrying a bulky laptop bag, suitcase, camera, or load of groceries could also cause a sudden strain on the back. Whenever possible, take some weight off your shoulders by carrying less, distributing the weight to both sides of the body, or shifting the weight from shoulder to shoulder to give each side a rest. For heavier loads, such as bags of groceries or boxes of files, consider using a rolling cart or bag with wheels.
Standing, sitting, or lying down in one place for an extended amount of time may be a necessary part of life, but it is not healthy for your back. Relieve the strain of the day whenever you can by getting up, walking around, and doing some simple stretches. This will help keep the blood flowing through the bones and muscles of your back and ease away any strains or aches caused by inactivity.