10 tips to avoid back pain

Most of us experience back pain at some point in our lives.  Although you might not be able to avoid pain completely during your lifetime, there are steps you can take to reduce pain, improve mobility and flexibility, and avoid the ill-effects caused by prolonged pain and disability.

Here are our top 10 tips to effectively and safely manage back pain.

1. Exercise

One of the most effective and proven ways to control back pain and diminish the effects of any disability caused by back pain is supervised exercise and strengthening.  However, the same set of exercises doesn’t work for everyone. The exercises have to be tailored to your specific symptoms and condition.

Clinical Exercise/Pilates prescribed by your physiotherapist is number one on my list of the most important things that anyone can do to prevent back pain. This involves performing an exercise program designed just for you to improve muscle imbalance, strength and control. Lack of muscle control and stability is often the root cause of back pain and stiffness. So, by either joining a class, or 1 on 1 instruction you’ll steadily increase your muscle control/strength and with it, slowly decrease your muscle tension and pain.

Maintaining the exercise routine at home is also a big part of success. In the same way that you brush your teeth twice per day to keep them clean and avoid pain, you need to look at working on your back in a similar way.

2. Avoid sitting

Did you know we spend 36 years of our adult life sitting down. That’s right according to research it was found we spend on average 14 hours and 28 minutes sitting every single day, and this simply isn’t good for your back.

Many of us are stuck in more or less the same position at our desks throughout the working day. Most likely hunched over the computer and putting excessive stress on your spine. It’s a good idea to stand up, or better still, take a walk every 40 minutes or so. When you sit there is approximately 10x more pressure pushing down on your spine than when you stand tall. You might want to try having breaks by standing when you’re working at the computer or elsewhere. This has led to the popular use of the stand up desk.

3. Correct body imbalances

Body or postural imbalance can slowly lead to significant muscle weakness, loss of flexibility and joint mobility. Identifying your unique body imbalances and correcting them takes stress off of your back and you will feel better.

Two of the most common postures that lead to significant body imbalances includes standing on one leg or carrying a bag over one shoulder or in one hand. Weight is not evenly distributed and the result is one side of your spine is under more pressure than the other (Likely to be the side you’re feeling the pain most). Persistent Imbalances such as this over a long period may also lead to curvature of your spine and likely tension and pain.

4. Stretch

Performing this daily ritual is a must as we get older and well into our 40’s-60’s.  If you are like many waking up and your body is tightening and loosing flexibility you are not alone. You can however reverse this feeling with a focused and very specific stretching program. 

Tight muscles around the pelvis and lower back such as gluteals, hamstrings, hip flexors. often contribute to back pain by putting more strain or load on it and making it more susceptible to create pain.

5. Change Your Mattress

The question – how old is your bed ? is a common one. If you haven’t changed your mattress in the last 10 years then it’s about time that you did! Invest as much as you can in finding the most comfortable one that works for you. After all, if you’re going to spend a third of your life in it, you might as well get the best one that you can. And the key isn’t, finding a firm one or a hard one – finding the right mattress is about finding the one that works best for you and your spine. Don’t be tricked by thinking if it’s firm it’s supportive or it’s too soft it’s unsupportive. Most of the time this is determined by the amount of foam padding used.

6. Avoid Sleeping On Your Stomach

Should I avoid sleeping on my stomach? This is another common question and whilst there is no evidence to suggest sleeping on your stomach is bad for you it is widely recommended by most physiotherapists that sleeping on your stomach for prolonged periods be avoided as it can lead to spinal malalignment and a stiff and painful back/neck in the morning.  

7. Diet

Some diets are highly inflammatory, especially those high in trans fats, refined sugars and processed foods. Consult with your doctor or dietitian to see if your diet could be contributing to your chronic back pain and how you could change it.

Maintaining a healthy weight could also help lessen your back pain by reducing the pressure on your spine. Often people experiencing chronic back pain don’t feel they can do the activities that they normally would, and as a result they end up increasing body weight and escalating back pain. You can do it, take small steps with some advice from an Exercise Physiologist and /or Dietitian.

8. Stay Hydrated

Things like excessive coffee, tea, alcohol and energy drinks will make you dehydrated. Being dehydrated can cause muscle aches and pains, fatigue and dizziness. So, it’s important that you keep your water intake up in an attempt to ease off any extra or unwanted tension in your back muscles. My tip, drink water little and often throughout the day.

9. Lifestyle Modifications

When you have chronic pain, it’s important to accept your limitations and adapt. “Listen to your body and learn to pace yourself”. Take a break when mowing the lawn, or make several trips when carrying groceries. Take note of the activities that worsen your pain and avoid them if possible. Not only could this help your back feel better, it could also prevent the underlying condition from advancing.

10. Physiotherapy

There is never just one cause for your back pain. If you are serious about getting the right outcome that is not just a quick fix, but rather a comprehensive, successful, return to the level of activity and type of lifestyle you are accustomed  to, then you really need to see an experienced  Physio to help you identify the main cause of your back pain and provide effective strategies to get you back inform.

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