Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missing work.
It’s actually the second most common reason for doctor’s visits, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections. Back pain can happen to anyone at any time - without warning.
Here are 5 risk factors that increase your risk of developing back pain- and 32 steps that you can take to minimize trouble.
Extra weight places added stress on your discs and joints and promotes poor posture.
Solution – Aim to burn more calories than you consume through exercise and choosing lower calorie, healthier food options. Here are some specific recommendations for diet and exercise:
- Start off gradually, and consult your doctor to determine your appropriate level of exercise.
- Vary your activities to prevent overuse injuries. Examples: walking, swimming. running, bicycling and low impact aerobics.
- Work out with a friend for motivation.
- Make sure that you are still able to talk while exercising (referred to as the “talk test”).
- Ultimately, try to get at least 20-30 minutes of exercise daily, 4-6 times per week.
- Eat slowly and stop BEFORE you feel full.
- Eat only when you are hungry, not out of boredom.
- Avoid eating heavy meals late in the day.
- Choose ‘colorful’ fruits and vegetables as your primary snacking choices.
- Limit your intake of red meat and refined carbohydrates (white rice, white flour, sugar).
- Avoid high-fructose corn syrup and commercially prepared foods loaded with preservatives, and especially avoid fast-food.
- Aim for gradual changes and slow weight loss. It’s more likely to stay off. A realistic goal would be to lose 1-2 pounds/week.
2. Sedentary Lifestyle
Inactivity, including prolonged sitting has detrimental effects on all parts of the body, including your back. Studies have shown that even 30 minutes of sitting makes your back more vulnerable to injury in the moments that follow.
Solution- Maintain an active lifestyle. Exercise regularly and if your job entails sitting at a desk try the following recommendations:
- Maintain proper body position and alignment: hips, knees and elbows at 90 degrees, shoulders relaxed, feet flat on floor or footrest.
- Use a lumber roll for lower back support.
- Avoid sitting on anything that would create an imbalance or uneven pressure (like your wallet).
- Consider an adjustable stand up desk (i.e Varidesk)
- Take a 10-second break every 20 minutes: Micro activities include: standing, walking, or moving your head in a “plus sign” fashion.
- Periodically, perform the “Brugger relief position.” Position your body at the chair’s edge, feet pointed outward. Weight should be on your legs and your abdomen should be relaxed. Tilt your pelvis forward, lift your sternum, arch your back, drop your arms, and roll out your palms while squeezing your shoulders together. Take a few deep-cleansing breaths.
Smoking diminishes blood flow to your spinal joints and muscles. Studies have shown that smokers have a greater risk for developing back pain over non-smokers.
Solution- Smokers who quit can significantly reduce their risk of back pain and many other diseases. Quitting is hard, but there is help:
- The combination of counseling and medication (nicotine replacement therapy) have proven to be the best way to quit smoking. Talk to your doctor about your options.
- Ask former smokers what worked for them.
- Avoid being around smoking situations.
- Call the national Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
- Replace smoking with healthier habits like exercise, rest and healthy eating.
A protruding abdomen and increased back curve, along with the postural changes that occur during pregnancy, cause many expecting moms to develop back pain.
Solution- Most pregnant women will benefit from continuing aerobic exercise throughout pregnancy. The US Department of Health and Human Services advises that healthy pregnant women may begin or continue moderate intensity aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes per week.
- Women should not begin “vigorous” exercise during pregnancy, but those who were preconditioned to vigorous exercise may continue.
- Be sure to check with your doctor prior to initiating or increasing any exercise program while you are pregnant.
- You may find benefit by using a small footstool to alternate feet while standing.
- Sleeping with a pillow between the knees in a side lying posture may help you to rest more comfortably.
- Wear shoes with good arch supports.
- In some cases, your chiropractor may recommend a sacroiliac belt or pelvic support belt to help relieve your pregnancy-related low back pain.
Emotional stress plays a significant role in low back pain. Although stress may not always be the sole cause of the problem, it acts as an “intensifier” of pain.
Solution- Seek help to manage your stress and decrease your risk for developing back pain.
- Stay active, especially with relaxation-inducing activities like meditation, yoga and breathing exercises.
- Connect with friends and family regularly and chooses activities that make you laugh.
- Most importantly, be grateful for what is good in your life!