If you’ve been sidelined by agonizing back pain, you’re not alone. Eight out of ten people experience back pain at some point in their life-time, making it the second or third most common reason for visiting the doctor.
Back pain takes various forms, from a persistent dull ache to sudden sharp pain, and has many causes. Sometimes it results from a sprain, fracture, or other accidental injury. It can stem from a disease or medical condition, such as arthritis or spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal through which the spinal cord runs). Many people develop back pain simply because they’re overweight or do sedentary jobs most of the time.
The good news is that most back pain usually gets better within a few days or weeks with skillful physiotherapy, and surgery is rarely necessary. What’s more, simple self-help strategies can be surprisingly effective at preventing back pain and keeping it from returning:
Get more exercise: If your back is hurting, you may think the best way to get relief is to limit exercise and to rest. A day or two of rest may help, but more than that may actually increase your pain. Experts now know that physical activity helps ease inflammation and muscle tension by keeping blood and nutrients flowing to the affected area.
Most importantly exercise will boost chronic pain relief with the natural endorphins. Endorphins are brain chemicals that help improve your mood while also blocking pain signals. Exercise has another pain-reducing effect; it strengthens muscles, help prevent re-injury and further pain. Exercise can help keep your weight down, reduce heart disease risk, and control blood sugar levels – especially important if you have diabetes. Ask your doctor or physiotherapist for an exercise routine that is right for you or that will be tailored to your condition. When you exercise, always start and end with stretches, a reputable physiotherapist will teach this.
Watch your weight: Extra kilograms of weight, especially in your midsection, can make back pain worse by shifting your center of gravity and putting strain on your lower back. Staying within few kilograms of your ideal weight will help control back pain.
If you smoke, stop: Because nicotine restricts the flow of nutrient-containing blood to spinal discs, smokers are especially vulnerable to back pain.
Sleep on your side: If you’re prone to back pain, sleep on your side with your knees pulled up slightly toward your chest. Prefer to sleep on your back? Put one pillow under your knees and another under your lower back. Sleeping on your stomach can be especially hard on your back. If you can’t sleep any other way, place a pillow under your hips. No matter how you sleep, a firm mattress is probably best. To firm up a soft mattress, you can place a half-inch-thick plywood board underneath.
Pay attention to your posture: The best chair for preventing back pain is one with a straight back or low-back support. You may put a rolled towel at the natural curve just above the buttock to maintain it. The natural inward curve is called lumbar lordosis in the medical parlance. Keep your knees a bit higher than your hips while seated. Prop your feet on a stool if you need to. If you must stand for a prolonged period, keep your head up and your stomach pulled in. If possible, rest one foot on a step
Be careful how you lift: Don’t bend over to lift heavy objects. Bend your hips, knees and squat, pulling in your stomach muscles and holding the object close to your body as you stand up. Don’t twist your body while lifting. If you can, push rather than pull heavy objects. Pushing is easier on the back.
Avoid high heels: They can shift your center of gravity and strain your lower back. Stick to a one-inch heel. If you have to go higher, bring along a pair of low-heeled shoes and slip into them if you become uncomfortable. Ladies that like putting on psychedelic shoes should first think of their health.
Stash the skinny jeans: Clothing that is so tight, interferes with bending, sitting, or walking and can aggravate back pain by causing poor posture and misalignment of the spine.
Lighten your wallet: Sitting on an overstuffed wallet may cause discomfort and back pain. If you’re going to be sitting for a prolonged period, while driving, for example, take your wallet out of your back pocket.
Pick the right handbag or briefcase: Buy a bag or briefcase with a wide, adjustable strap that’s long enough to reach over your head. A messenger bag (like the ones bike messengers wear) is made to wear this way. Having the strap on the opposite shoulder of the bag distributes the weight more evenly and helps keep your shoulders even and you’re back pain-free. When carrying a heavy bag or case without straps, switch hands frequently to avoid putting all the stress on one side of the body. To lighten the load, periodically purge bags, cases, backpacks, and other carriers of things you don’t need.
Forget about back braces: Various back supports are available, from elastic bands to special corsets. They can be helpful after certain kinds of surgery, but there is not much evidence that they help treat chronic back pain. By immobilizing and thus weakening back muscles, back braces may actually aggravate back pain.
Get a massage: Massage can help reduce stress and relieve tension. And is being used by people living with all sorts of chronic pain, including back and neck pain. However massage may work miracles but will not heal the underlying cause of the pain.
Eat a healthy diet: A well-balanced diet is important in many ways — aiding your digestive process, reducing heart disease risk, keeping weight under control, and improving blood sugar levels. Eat low-fat, low-sodium diet. You may choose from these: fresh fruits and vegetables; cooked dried beans and peas; cereals, yogurt, and lean meats. If you are confused, you may visit a dietician in any of our federal medical centre or general hospitals for advice.
Find ways to distract yourself from pain so you enjoy life more: When you focus on pain, it makes it worse rather than better. Instead, find something you like doing — an activity that keeps you busy and thinking about things besides your pain. You might not be able to avoid pain, but you can take control of your life.
Cut back on alcohol, which can worsen sleep problems: Pain makes sleep difficult, and alcohol can make sleep problems worse. If you’re living with chronic pain, drinking less or no alcohol can improve your quality of life.
Reduce stress in your life. Stress intensifies chronic pain: Negative feelings like depression, anxiety, stress, and anger can increase the body’s sensitivity to pain. By learning to take control of stress, you may find some relief from chronic pain.
Several techniques can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Listening to soothing, calming music can lift your mood — and make living with chronic pain more bearable. There are even specially designed relaxation tapes or CDs for this. Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that promotes relaxation. Your physiotherapist may teach you the regime. Remember the old adage: prevention is easier than cure.