Back pain is both debilitating and extremely common. There are many potential causes, some of which you may not have even considered. Addressing these issues now can help prevent future back pain.
Jump to a specific section to learn how to improve your back pain:
- Stand up and move
- Ergonomic chair and sitting properly
- Lift properly
- Losing weight
- Stop smoking
- Change your wardrobe and accessories
- Change the way you sleep
- Change where you sleep
Improve your posture
Your mom and teachers were on to something when they used to say, “sit up straight.” Do you spend most of your day hunched over a computer? What about the simple act of sending a text message to your colleagues, family or friends? You may be slouched more than you realized, and for long periods of time. Your body works hard to keep you upright and balanced, and has to work even harder to compensate for poor posture. As your muscles work to counteract poor posture, you may experience sore muscles, joint pain, and back pain.
Improving your posture is an important first step in preventing back pain.
Take a stand and get moving!
While you’re at it, make sure to take frequent breaks at work, stepping away from your desk and stretching periodically. Did you know that sitting for extended periods of time can strain the lower back — about 40 percent more than standing. To help prevent back pain, move your muscles and keep your joints fluid through regular exercise. Exercise can build your muscle strength and help prevent back pain associated with muscle strains.
Invest in a good ergonomic chair and learn how to sit in it properly
While sitting for extended time periods can contribute to back pain, you’ll still need to sit down throughout your day. Investing in an ergonomic chair with lumbar support and various adjustments can help to prevent back pain. However, you must still sit in your new chair properly. This means adjusting the height so your feet are flat on the ground, keeping your hips back in the chair, keeping your back straight and your shoulders back, and supporting your upper and lower back.
Whether you regularly lift heavy objects or not, you’ll want to be sure you know how to lift things properly. While your first instinct might be to bend over and lift an object, the safer way is to squat and use your legs. Let your legs do the work, not your back. According to the Mayo Clinic, squat down to the object, maintain the natural curves of the lower back, use your legs, and avoid twisting. If the object is too heavy to do this safely, get help.
Lose those extra pounds
Imagine carrying around a 10-pound sack (or two or three or more) of potatoes 24/7. Would that put a strain on your back over time? You bet it would! Being overweight does the same thing, making it important to keep your weight in a healthy range. Consider evaluating your diet and starting an exercise program to help you lose the extra pounds and prevent associated back pain.
While you’re likely well aware of the health risks associated with smoking such as lung cancer and emphysema, you might not have connected the dots between smoking and back pain. Research has found that smoking can worsen existing back pain, but it’s not clear why. One theory is that smoking narrows blood vessels, which then restrict the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the spine, making it more prone to injuries.
Address your wardrobe and accessories
High heels, tight jeans, fat wallets, and heavy purses can all contribute to back pain. With high heels, your center of gravity shifts, which can result in a strained lower back. Tight clothing that restricts your ability to bend, sit, or walk comfortably can result in back pain. Many men keep their wallets in their back pockets, which changes their posture while sitting and can cause back pain and discomfort. Heavy purses, backpacks, messenger bags, and briefcases can also cause back pain, making it smart to lighten the load or invest in ergonomic alternatives.
Change the way you sleep
If you have back pain, your sleeping position could be contributing to it. One of the worst sleeping positions for back and neck pain is sleeping on your stomach. Not only does this flatten the natural curve of your spine, it forces you to turn your head to one side which puts a strain on your neck. Sleeping on your back can aggravate or contribute to lower back pain. Putting a pillow beneath your knees can help take some of the strain off your back if you must sleep on your back. Side sleeping with your knees pulled slightly up toward your chest is commonly recommended.
Change where you sleep
It’s not always easy getting a good night’s sleep, and your bed could be part of the problem. What’s worse, it could be contributing to your back pain. If you bed is sagging, it’s not supporting your spine as originally intended. Likewise, if it’s too soft, you’re probably spending all night with poor posture. The National Sleep Foundation recommends replacing your mattress every 9 to 10 years. However, studies have shown that those who replace their mattresses after about 5 years sleep better and have less back pain than those who don’t.
Consult with a chiropractor
Finally, consider consulting with a chiropractor for more ways to prevent back pain. Chiropractic adjustments to realign your spine are a non-invasive way to treat and prevent back pain. Chiropractors can also recommend specific stretches and exercises, teach you proper techniques (such as lifting techniques or ergonomic positions for various tasks), address and treat repetitive motion injuries, and more.
If you’ve ever experienced back pain, you know how miserable it can make you — even if it’s minor and short-term. For many, back pain is a chronic and debilitating condition. Improving your posture, standing more often, sitting and lifting properly, improving your health, evaluating your wardrobe, getting a better night’s sleep, and consulting with a chiropractor are proactive steps you can take to prevent back pain. As the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine.