The Top 3 Back Pain Tips, Tricks & Tools Everyone Needs To Know About
Do you or someone you know have back pain?
9 out of 10 adults experience back pain at some point. Back pain is one of the most common problems across the US and is the leading issue when it comes to people missing work.
There are many things that can cause back pain. Some of the more obvious ones are injuries, lifting something incorrectly, and bad posture. But other than these few, you might be making a very common mistake in your daily routine that may contribute to your back pain.
What we’re about to discuss here might be surprising, but I’ll explain more why it can be a contributing factor to back pain, as well as give you some tips on how to correct it.
First up is the lack of exercise
Hold on a sec – “shouldn’t I rest and take it easy when I have back pain?” I hear this all the time in my clinic. The answer is usually no. While there is a time for rest, for example, right after an injury. Resting too long, or just taking it easy, contributes more to back pain than you realize. If you’ve ever spent too much time on the couch and get up feeling a little stiff – this is your body giving you a sign that you need to move around more.
Instead of just static rest on the couch or in bed, you MUST consider ACTIVE rest instead!
I’ve had clients that have had chronic back pain for over a year and felt better almost immediately after I gave them some specific exercises to do.
In addition to exercising the right muscle groups, you also need to take flexibility and mobility into account. If you consider yourself an active person, you might go to the gym, go for walks or jogs, or you might play sports.
But do you also incorporate stretching or mobilization movements into your daily routine?
It is often overlooked, which is bad as stretches help alleviate back pain and reduce tension in the spine and the rest of the body. It also improves the range of motion and overall mobility.
To fix this problem – stretch daily. This way, the lactic acid build-up in the body can be released and increases blood flow to tight muscles. Your whole body will feel better, especially your back. I post daily exercises and stretches on my Instagram. Here’s the link to my page: https://www.instagram.com/officialdannyshapiro/
Yoga is also a popular way to alleviate back pain. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “my friend told me to try yoga for my back pain”. Just be careful, Yoga can mess you up more than you are now if you don’t actually know the root cause of the problem in your back. That’s where a physical therapist can help.
If you’re determined to try Yoga, the goal is not to bend, twist, or force your body in various positions, but instead, the poses (known as asanas) should be used to help strengthen back muscles and fix your posture. Focus on activating the core muscles and on breathing, which can relieve tension.
Just like anything else, start slow, and really pay attention to how you feel. If you feel good, great! You’ll get better and better and will progress to more advanced moves. But if you don’t feel good and have pain, your body is giving you a sign – which you should always listen to!
Yoga can be fantastic, just make sure it is actually helping and not hurting you. Talk to a physical therapist that can help treat the root cause of the back pain and incorporate Yoga into the treatment plan.
Muscle Strains and Spasms
The spine is designed to carry the weight of the body. When extra pressure is placed on it without proper control, it can result in back pain. Many people think that muscle strains/spasms occur only during exercise, sports, or repetitive/forceful movements. But people who rarely exercise or are mainly sedentary who suddenly funnily move off the couch or lift something heavy are actually more prone to this.
This often leads to muscle spasms, causing you to yell “OH **** MY BACK!” Then when your physical therapist asks how you hurt yourself, you say “I wasn’t doing anything, it just happened!”
But this goes back to my first point, inactivity and “rest” can actually cause more harm than going to the gym and exercising. But in general, try to avoid movements that twist or strain the back uncontrollably. Be especially mindful if you’re now working from home more.
Even corporations have realized that sitting too much isn’t good for your health. That’s why many businesses offer employees perks like gym memberships, Fitbit’s, and standing desks. They’re not only doing it for you. Research has shown that being sedentary lowers employee’s productivity and increases the use of sick days.
Whether you work at home or in an office, at the very least, try standing up every 30 minutes and walk around the room or even try some seated exercise moves. By doing this, you are stretching and releasing the stress from your muscles and your back. It also helps in improving your posture and blood circulation.
You can also try some simple exercises and stretches to relieve muscle strain and back pain. One of them is stretching the hamstring muscles twice daily. It doesn’t take much time, which makes it a great addition to your daily routine if you suffer from back pain.
If you’ve had pain for a long time or if the pain spreads to your thighs, hips, or legs, book an appointment with a physical therapist to see what’s going on. If there’s a problem, I’ve rarely seen it just go away by itself.
How old is your mattress?
Believe it or not, sleeping on an old mattress can make your back pain worse! When it doesn’t give enough support, the tendency is that it changes your sleeping posture, causes muscle strains, and doesn’t keep the spine in proper alignment. All of these factors contribute to back pain.
Sleep is compromised when the mattress doesn’t match one’s body. Did you know that your mattress should be changed at least every 8 years? If it is well taken care of, it can last for up to a decade. But even if you give it a little TLC now and then to ensure that it holds up, experts say that it will eventually wear out. As it wears out, it will start to sag in the middle. Sounds unpleasant right?
It’s also a recipe for back pain that will chip away at you little by little. That could mean tossing and turning at night, or waking up the next morning feeling sore. When this happens for a long time, it becomes a cycle of exhaustion and discomfort.
Now your next question might be – what kind of mattress should I buy? You can google this forever and will find some research telling you memory foam is better, other experts will say a spring mattress is better, then someone else will say a latex-gel mattress is the best…You get the idea.
But here’s the thing. The best mattress is one that is comfortable for YOU! Everyone is different and I can’t give a blanket recommendation one way or the other – pun intended 🙂
There are a ton of new mattress brands where you can get much better deals than in-store, not to mention they give you a 60-120 day guarantee on the mattress. I prefer that over the mattress store because they give you a chance to sleep on it for a while and will take the mattress back if you don’t like it. But again, that’s my personal preference.
If your mattress is OK and you’re still feeling sore and stiff in the morning try this:
- If you sleep on your back, place a pillow under your feet to support your spine.
- If you prefer to sleep on your side, you can put a pillow between your legs for your hip and lower back support.
Diet Plays a Role in Back Pain
Our bodies are smart and resilient, but what we put into our bodies will impact how we look and feel. There is a correlation between being overweight and having back pain. People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from back pain and joint issues.
Through the years, an increasing number of diet plans have emerged. A lot of people embark on a harsh, low-calorie diet to quickly lose weight with the belief that “less is more.” Going on improper diets or crash dieting often produces short-term results.
Sure, the body will shed weight for a little while. But dieting too fast and too hard will make you end up in a much worse position than when you first started.
Here’s the truth, the point isn’t to go on a diet. It’s to change and improve your lifestyle. Whether it’s a change in your diet, exercising more, drinking more water, whatever. Just make sure it’s something you enjoy and can keep it up for the long term.
Sometimes all you need is a physical therapist that can create a customized plan that works for you! I’ve worked with so many people that loved the way they looked and felt and didn’t want to diet or lose weight. So if that’s not you, don’t worry! Many solutions don’t involve dieting and changing everything about yourself just to get rid of your back pain!
The other important factor with what you eat doesn’t have to do with weight. It’s the type of food that you eat. Various studies show how certain foods cause inflammation in the body which can contribute to feeling aches, tightness, and back pain.
There is significant evidence showing that the type of food you eat can cause inflammation in the body. Some foods are the opposite and have anti-inflammatory properties. Foods like fruits and vegetables. Carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, cherries, berries, grapes, pomegranate, and watermelon are all loaded with nutrients. Less inflammation = Less pain.
While certain foods lessen the severity of back pain, other foods can aggravate the symptoms – especially if you have a sensitivity or minor allergy to something.
In general, here’s some of what you might want to avoid:
- Processed foods
- Foods high in saturated fats
- Dairy products
- Foods with trans-fats
- Vegetable oils – sunflower, mixed vegetable oils, and corn
- Vegetable and margarine shortening
- High-fructose corn syrup
As a test, try this for two weeks and see how you feel.
Another effective way to reduce back pain is to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients, such as B vitamins, Vitamin D, and Calcium.
When the body does not get an ample amount of calcium to replace what is being used regularly, it will instead source it from the bones, which will eventually weaken them and make them more susceptible to damage.
Back pain is one of the most common reasons that people book a doctor’s appointment, miss work, and stop engaging in some of their favorite hobbies and activities.
We have discussed how weight, diet, and exercise are directly related. Excess weight and not enough exercise can ultimately cause the body’s muscles, joints, etc to deteriorate faster. The less pressure on the back, the less pain you’ll have.
We talked about how lack of exercise and mobility will make your back pain worse. Stretches are also important for everyone, especially for those of you who are working behind a desk all day or leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Staying seated during a 9-5 job for an extended period and then making sudden, rapid movements may cause back pain and muscle spasms. The best way to approach this is to ensure that you’re taking breaks to stretch your muscles and to improve blood circulation.
Last but not the least, don’t forget about your mattress. Mattresses have a lifespan of at least 8 years, provided that one cares for them well. The best way to fix this is to replace it with a new one.
These are only a few of the most common causes of back pain – there are a lot more…
Back pain can be one of those debilitating things that prevent you from enjoying your hobbies, spending time with your friends and family, and just enjoying your life. If your back has been bothering you for some time now, please talk to a physical therapist. Unlike a doctor, a physical therapist can work to get rid of your pain naturally.
Don’t wait for your back pain to just go away by itself – it usually won’t. A physical therapist can not only help get rid of your pain but can get you back to the things you love without painkillers, injections, or surgery.
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