When was the last time you wondered how to prevent back pain? For many, it was quite recently. Regardless of whether you feel you live a particularly active or sedentary lifestyle, the functionality and comfort of your back must be important to you. And why wouldn’t it? It’s involved in everything you do, and does more than you think it might. Your hands and arms aren’t the only things involved in heavy lifting, for instance, and your glutes aren’t the only part of your body involved in sitting. Your back is something that is under constant use on a daily basis, and it’s always ideal to keep it in the best shape possible. Of course, this isn’t always the case, and one way or another we tend to run into situations that cause back pain.
Dealing with back pain can be troublesome in and of itself, of course – it’s a large area with a complex lineup of muscle groups that need unique attention. No, the best way to confront the problem of back pain might be to prevent it – much easier to manage, and much more realistic that way as well. Maintaining some healthy habits can prevent back pain from flaring up, as it is wont to do even at the most inopportune times. And this is often a matter of simply keeping a few things in mind.
Prevent Back Pain With These Tips
- Lift carefully. The old saying “lift with your legs” is true in virtually all cases that require heavy lifting, so listen to the cliché and actually do it. This is because your back is spared the stress of straining to balance the weight. Bend your knees, tighten your abs, and hold the lifted object close to the body (but don’t turn into a slant board for it!). This is a relatively strain-neutral position that makes the more relevant muscles do all the work.
- Lift straight. Minimize the use of twisting movements when you’re lifting. These motions put strain on your trunk and thus your back. Even when not lifting, keep the twists and turns of your body to a minimum, as this can put undue strain on the spine. If you feel tightness or pain when doing so, pay attention to your body’s warning signals.
- Keep hydrated. Believe it or not, the water you keep getting told to take contributes to the health of your back as well. Drinking lots of water increases the height on your intervertebral disks, keeping that all-important structure fluid too. It helps that having a well-hydrated system keeps you fluid and supple in general.
- Strengthen your abs. Notice how these muscles are a big factor in lifting things from the ground, as well as holding the upper and lower parts of your body in position? They’re far more suited to it than the back is, so let the abs to the work. Strengthening them helps you avoid back pain, because the abs exert enough effort to keep the back in the clear. This will become important both in terms of lifting heavy objects and exerting general control in most of your movements, which would otherwise be somewhat demanding on your back.
- Keep the weight down. Avoiding having your weight rise and rise is a good move for your back, because doing so helps you avoid compression of the intervertebral disks. Furthermore, having a good overall body weight and distribution helps reduce the risk of posture problems (like anterior pelvic tilt) that can wreak havoc on the back, putting a lot of strain on the spine.
- Sleep in the right position. While doctors tend to shift tack on which sleeping position is ideal, the general consensus seems to be that you should favor a position that gives you comfort but doesn’t strain your back and neck. You’d be surprised at how many pillows force unnatural bending of the beck, resulting in a painfully stiff neck in the morning. Make sure your mattress gives good support, so it doesn’t sag in the middle and cause your back to do the same as you lie. This is a commonly-overlooked problem.
- Warm up before going hot. If you exercise – and you really should, as it helps keep you limber – don’t go into the workout full blast. Warmups are prescribed as a standard part of any workout for a reason, mainly that they help loosen up your muscles and let them shift from day-to-day configuration to physically-demanding-workout configuration. Let your body go through the motions of your workout, and this can keep your back from getting unduly pummeled. Stretching is usually recommended as part of a good warmup, with good reason.
- Cool down after going hot. This is a commonly-skipped step since “after all, the exercise is done” – but stretching after the workout can help diffuse muscle tightness, which in turn can contribute to lessening the risk of injury. Furthermore, stretching will help you achieve muscle alignment, which can in turn help reduce and relieve joint strain.
- Don’t sit down so much. Even if it’s part of the job, sitting down for too long can result in a lot of strain being put on your back, particularly if your posture is problematic. The latter can even result in problems like kyphosis, while the overall problem of sitting too much is that it ends up loading and compressing the disks in your back. Take breaks every now and then to get up and stretch a bit, and your back will thank you.
- Consider a holistic approach like Pilates or yoga. There are a lot of potential benefits to an approach that covers all the bases, as these can result in improved overall health and flexibility, not just for your back. Even back massages can be helpful for both keeping the muscles supple and loose and dealing with existing pain, although in the latter case each case may vary. In particular, yoga has been credited in many cases with helping relieve chronic lower back pain, as well as pain resulting from neck injuries. Just to be sure, though, make certain your doctor clears you for this (just as you would for any workout).
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