The human body relies on the back for support. Without this support, one would be unable to do anything from standing to sitting to walking. The majority amongst us unknowingly manages to cause harm to our primary source of support. Be it through lifting or sitting or even standing, simple movements, if done incorrectly, harbor the potential to cause significant damage to one’s back, which results in backache.
Millions of people suffer from back pain on a daily basis across the globe. Back pain falls only second to headaches in causing pain. Four out of five adults are reported to experience back pain. The pain itself has been described to affect the quality of one’s life gravely. Back pain is known to affect one’s social and professional life. In severe cases, back pain can impair a person from performing everyday tasks with ease.
Causes of Back Pain
When it comes to causes, the latest studies show that the majority of cases of back pain present due to muscular imbalance around the spine along with bad posture and positioning. Less than 15% of the cases of backache result from structural issues such as arthritis, tumors, or ruptured discs.
Following are some of the causes of back pain.
- Bad Posture: Poor posture can strain the neck and lower back. It inhibits the routine functioning of internal organs and makes the body more prone to injury.
- Obesity: Additional weight means more stress on the bone structure. This includes the spine and its surrounding muscles.
- Sprains: Sprains result in muscular pain. They are caused by extreme physical exertion, falls, lifting heavy objects, and bending or crouching.
- Ruptured Discs: The discs of the vertebrae are the most important determinant of spine health. Slipped or ruptured discs are the source of excruciating backache resulting from the pinching of nerve endings by the displaced discs.
- Stress: Stress has been known to have a debilitating effect on one’s overall health. Backache can be caused by daily stress and anxiety.
- Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a common occurrence in old age. An inevitable outcome of this illness is bone pain. The effect of this illness on the spine results in severe back pain, which can be minimized by focusing on posture correction and exercise.
10 Ways To Care For Your Back
Back care is one way in which you can reduce your chances of developing back pain. These are nothing more than practicing body mechanics in the form of daily tasks. Simple, yet harboring the potential to introduce serious change, here are 10 ways in which you can care for your back.
1. IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE
Poor posture is one of the main reasons behind back pain, especially during young age. Owing to the nature of work in today’s world, we spend a fair amount of time on our computers and phones. Prolonged periods of looking down into such devices resulted in a particular form of back pain, which introduced a new term called ‘text neck’. This condition was described to develop over years of looking down and reading. Experts explained that such tasks force us to slouch, which in turn puts stress on the muscles of the neck and shoulders. Over time, this posture leads to pain and muscle fatigue.
Your posture does not merely encompass sitting or standing. It also counts your performance with routine activities such as lifting, bending, etc. A good posture ensures that the vertebrae are aligned correctly and thus functioning properly.
2. SWITCH POSITIONS AND STRETCH
Remaining stagnant in one position all day results in tension build up in the muscles. Be it lying down, sitting or lifting; it is critical to keep changing your positions frequently and stretching from time to time to relive that built up tension in the muscles.
Regular working hours span between 8 to 9 hours. When at work, make sure to sit at a proper desk with the right posture. After every hour or so, get up and stretch. Not only will it enhance mobility and joint flexibility, but it will also get the blood flowing better. Healthy blood flow is imperative to muscle health. Joint fluidity helps maintain a good range of motion and reduces the risk of injury.
3. DO REGULAR EXERCISE
Exercise should be an essential part of one’s routine as it benefits your health in a countless number of ways. From weight loss to better posture to enhanced blood flow to better joint fluidity to overall muscles health, staying active is the key to physical fitness. According to NINDS, staying physically active reduces one’s risk of experiencing back pain. Mobility ensures healthy functioning of the spine.
Sedentary living is bad for the back; however, vigorous exercise is not particularly helpful either. If you incorporate strenuous exercise in your routine to the point where it causes exertion, you are working for more harm than good. The joints, muscles, and supporting tissues simply are not ready to bear that level of stress. Instead, opt for a more steadfast approach and work your way up by initially starting small.
The best exercises for back care have been concluded to be a mix of aerobic exercise, stretching, and strength training. The idea is to focus on the muscle groups that support the back. It is important not to put excessive strain on the back. Incorporate more exercise in your routine that enables you to become healthier, such as walking, cycling, swimming, etc. Walking happens to be the most commonly prescribed exercise for those struggling with lower back pain. Aerobics aid spinal alignment and improves flexibility. The goal is to enhance mobility. Do not over stress your body.
4. TAKE BETTER DIET
A fair percentage of back aches result from the increased weight, especially belly fat. The enhanced weight adds additional stress to the bones and muscles, which in turn results in pain. The goal should be to maintain a healthy weight, and the best way to keep your weight in check is with exercise and diet.
Certain food items have been studied to increase the levels of cortisol in the body. These include sugary foods, dairy, gluten, fried food, saturated fats, trans fats, alcohol and red meat. Cortisol, also sometimes referred to as the stress hormone, possesses the ability to induce inflammation. Increased levels of cortisol in the body increase the inflammatory factor, which in turn results in pain. To counter the effects of high-cortisol foods on our health system, it is necessary to consume foods that harbor the opposite effect, i.e., those with anti-inflammatory properties.
Many food items have been proven to fight inflammation. These include green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, berries, tomatoes, onions, and more. Therefore, to help improve your chances of living a pain-free life, it is crucial that you consume more of these foods as opposed to those in the formal category. In addition to contributing to a healthy dietary intake and weight, with the inflammatory factors at bay, there is a reduced chance of developing pain.
5. WEAR THE RIGHT SHOES
Choose the right footwear that supports a healthy posture and is appropriate for your chosen exercise or engagement for the day. It is no surprise that heels are detrimental for spinal health as are flat shoes like ballet flats. In order to function correctly, these shoe styles demand you to tense your feet, which adds stress to your whole body, especially your back. Your feet are the foundation of the building that is your body. When the foundation is under pressure, the entire building will be under stress, too, and prolonged stress will result in damages.
The ideal heel for maintaining optimum spinal health is one inch. High heels contribute to unstable posture and increased pressure on the lower spine. Flip slops and flats lack adequate support, which adds strain to one’s joints. Invest in the right pair that gives your feet comfort and back support.
6. ADOPT A RIGHT WAY TO LIFT WEIGHT
Lifting heavy weights the wrong way can result in severe consequences. One wrong move and you can damage your spine for good. Experts recommend that the best way to lift weights is to stand close to the object and employ the use of your knees and legs rather than your upper body or back. Bend your knees, so your arms reach the same level as the item that is to be lifted. Lower your head and keep the back straight as you lift. If the weight exceeds your strength, avoid putting extra effort and get help. Also, make sure to take breaks between lifts, so you avoid muscle fatigue.
7. STAY HYDRATED
Hydration has been deduced to play a significant role in maintaining soft tissue elasticity, joint fluidity, and this overall flexibility. As we age, our spinal discs begin to shrink, hereby becoming more susceptible to pain resulting from disc displacement or rupture. These conditions arise when the loss of fluid causes the discs to slip out of place. A commonly reported condition is sciatica. Sciatica results from herniated vertebral discs and bulging discs; both of which are excruciating and damaging. Thus to reduce the risk of developing this condition, it is best to take every measure necessary to prevent it. Simply start drinking more water.
8. OPTIMIZE YOUR WORK STATION
Working hours can be long and working in a less than comfortable position can be incredibly damaging to your spine. Thus, it is critical that you optimize your workstation according to your body. These small measures will reduce the stresses on your upper and lower back. This reduced stress will help in subsequent reduction in the incidence of headaches, stiff backs, shoulder pains, sciatica, and carpal tunnel, etc.
If you are using a computer, make sure it isn’t placed too far away and is set up at the same level as your height and functionality. Opt for a chair that provides excellent lower back support and allows you to place your feet firmly on the floor. Avoid slouching or leaning into the screen and sit back with your shoulders relaxed to improve your posture and reduce muscular stress. Be self-conscious and keep checking yourself at regular intervals if you are sitting correctly. If you are going to be taking a lot of calls, invest in a headset instead of wedging the phone between your ear and shoulder.
9. CHOOSE THE RIGHT MATTRESS FOR THE BEST SLEEP
We spend a significant portion of our day in bed sleeping. Sleep is essential for one’s overall wellbeing. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that you are sleeping right. The impact of a mattress on your overall sleep quality as well as spinal health is more important than it is given credit for. Supportive mattresses are beneficial for the back; however, choosing the right one can be quite a daunting task considering the wide variety that is available now.
The key is to find a mattress that allows you to sleep better and reduces any pain or stiffness. There is a common misconception that rock hard mattresses are the best ones for the back. However, a study published in Lancet in 2003 debunked this claim and instead confirmed that medium-firm mattresses are the best ones for lower back pain. Lastly, know when to get your hands on a new mattress. A visibly sagging and lumpy mattress is the worst for your back. Once your mattress has lived its course, treat yourself to a new one.
10. DON’T IGNORE THE SIGNS
If you are experiencing occasional back pain, do not ignore it. This is perhaps the most crucial thing one needs to know, and that is to never sleep on any warning signs. Observe the pain patterns and interpret what your body is trying to convey. Leaving a condition as serious as backache untreated can cause it to deteriorate rapidly. Seek help before it is too late.
Backcare should be an integral part of one’s wellbeing. Do not sleep on it because it might cost you.