Back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. Every day, millions of people can?t engage in work, hobbies and other activities because of their suffering. Yet, if they understood a bit more about their spine and how it functions, they might be able to minimize pain and live a more satisfying life.
Luckily, there are many simple ways to improve spine health and improve your overall wellness in the process.
1. Lift Right
One of the best ways to prevent major and minor spinal injuries is to use proper lifting techniques. Your back has limits and repeatedly lifting or holding heavy loads can push it past these boundaries and cause muscle strain. Therefore, it?s better to lift with your legs and avoid raising the load above your head. Let your hips and core ? which tend to be stronger, anyway ? do most of the work.
2. Quit Nicotine
Smoking damages the spine in a number of ways and can make back pain worse. Nicotine can damage spinal tissue, weaken bones, damage discs and cause spinal stenosis. All of these side effects can cause pain and lead to other health problems. Heavy smokers also tend to have a more sedentary lifestyle, which further contributes to strain and muscle weakness in the lower back. Ultimately, the best way to minimize the risk of poor spinal health is to quit smoking.
3. Lose the Weight
As long as you?re nixing unhealthy habits, you might as well replace them with a few good ones. Instead of adopting a couch potato lifestyle, which can wreak havoc on your back, get moving. Adopt an exercise routine and incorporate healthy whole foods into your diet. Eventually, these good decisions will pay off in the form of weight loss. Even losing 10 to 15 pounds can minimize strain on your back and significantly reduce pain.
4. Wear Supportive Shoes
Whether you?re walking, running or working, you need good shoes to get wherever you?re going. More importantly, you need the support they can give your lower back and reduce back pain. Choose a pair that provides arch and heel support and make sure the fit is snug but not too tight. A proper fit will prevent pronation or supination and maintain proper alignment from the tips of your toes to the top of your spine.
5. Strengthen Your Core
Your core muscles support your spine and take pressure off your back, therein minimizing pain and risk of injury. Unfortunately, most people have rather weak cores because they don?t consciously strengthen their lower back and abdomen muscles. Therefore, it?s best to target these muscles by incorporating specific exercises into your everyday routine. Build strength with glute bridges, planks, lunges and similar movements that work your glutes, pelvic floor, abdominals, obliques and mid and lower back.
6. Practice Good Posture
If you?re experiencing back, neck and shoulder pain, poor posture might have something to do with it. Whether you spend your day sitting or standing, it?s wise to change positions regularly or find a way to alternate between the two. When you?re standing, draw your shoulder blades down and try to keep a neutral pelvis. When you?re sitting, keep your knees level with your hips and your computer eye level to minimize strain and reduce pressure on lower spinal discs.
7. Stretch Out
Avoid sitting for long periods of time and remember to stretch every hour or so. Otherwise, you can cut off circulation and nutrients to the spine and muscles in your back. Taking time to stretch will also improve your mobility and range of motion, allowing you to move more freely and reduce risk of injury. Make stretching a habit by including the whole family in a morning or evening stretching routine.
Most people aren?t aware that consistent dehydration can cause back pain. When you fail to drink enough water, your body transports fluid from your joints to your brain. If you lose too much fluid around the discs between your vertebrae, there will be less cushion between bones, which can cause severe back pain. Therefore, it?s imperative that you drink enough water every day.
9. Let Your Spine Rest
While you?re lying down, try to let your spine relax completely. Allow it time to truly rest and decompress by getting about eight hours of sleep each night. Of course, a supportive mattress and good pillows can also help rejuvenate your spine. Use a medium-firm to firm mattress or mattress topper and use a neck pillow to support the cervical spine. You can also experiment with pillow placement to better support your sleeping position and reduce morning stiffness.
If you?re already dealing with back pain or need immediate relief, talk to your doctor about possible treatment options. Depending on underlying health conditions and what kind of pain you?re experiencing, they may recommend you see a spine specialist or chiropractor. You might also consider a visit to your local spa or massage therapist. Even a short session can relieve pain and relax deep tissues and muscles that may be holding tension.