Getting and Keeping a Healthy Back
Your back never rests. Whether you’re sitting down, lying down or standing up, your back muscles are at work, making it fairly hard to decrease pain if you’re feeling some. About 4 Canadian adults out of 5 suffer from back pain or will suffer from it at some point in their lives. Stress, a bad posture, poor muscle tone, lack of flexibility and extra weight are all causes for a sore back.
In trying to find a solution to ease back pain, people will turn to various techniques and solutions. Some are good, others aren’t. Here’s a list of what you should avoid doing to improve your back condition, followed by a list of actions that’ll truly and really help you get – and keep! – a healthy back.
Things to Avoid Doing
Brutal “bone cracking” therapies. You may be under the impression that when it cracks, it’s good for the back. In fact, it isn’t. Your back is fragile and should be manipulated gently, with precautions. Brutally pushing everything back in place might relieve you from pain for a brief period of time. Be rest assured that pain will come back – and it’ll mean business!
Yes you read well. But read up to following carefully. A nice, soothing massage is good to relax tensed muscles and ease some kind of back pain… but not all types of back pain. In fact, if your back pain is bone-related (caused by a misplaced vertebra of rib, for example) a massage may relax your muscle and ease the pain at first… but only to make it come back harder afterwards.
While popping a pain-killing or anti-inflammatory pill may be of some help to go through a day without suffering from back pain too much, it should not be considered a solution. Masking the pain won’t make it go away for good! And, chances are, by being all numbed-up by the pills; you may make a move that’ll make your pain worse when the anti-pain effect dissipates.
Things to Do
Consult a specialist… and make sure it’s the right one. If you’re feeling some kind of back pain, before trying anything to ease it, consult a specialist who’ll identify its precise cause. But not any specialist: Opt for a physiotherapist or an osteopath. How to be sure he or she is the right one? Well, for starters, a good back specialist will identify the reason of your back pain pretty quickly. And, depending on the severity of your condition, back pain can be treated within three to five appointments, spread over a few weeks. So if the specialist you’re meeting assures you that you will need three appointments a week for the at least the next five months, go somewhere else!
Add pillows for extra support when sleeping. For starters you should always sleep with a good, preferably ergonomic pillow under your head and neck. Then, if you sleep on your back, put a pillow under your knees to relieve lower back from pressure. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees to avoid a torsion of the spine. If you sleep on your stomach – which, by the way, is the hardest position for your back – place a pillow under your pelvis, and, exceptionally for this position, try and sleep without a pillow under your head, to avoid straining your neck.
Strengthen your abs. Your abdominal muscles are responsible for holding you straight and keeping your spine in its right position, distributing effort and pressure equally in your muscles. Or, at least, that’s what they should be doing. Thanks to our mostly sedentary lifestyle, most people’s abdominal muscles are almost never solicited, causing lousy and unbalanced posture and adding extra pressure on your back. Take the habit to do some abs-exercises before the shower, for instance, or before going to bed and you’ll feel a difference pretty quickly.
Pay attention to your posture. Whether our muscles are toned or not, sometime we just take on the habit of sitting down with our shoulders all curled up, or with our legs crossed and our spine twisted, or to stand up with our weight all on one legs. All of the above are bad for your back and, on the long run, will give back pain even to the fittest. Try and start paying attention to your posture throughout the day. The idea is balance and symmetry. For example, if you really can’t help sitting with your legs crossed, try and switch legs often. Do not overly bend your shoulders forward, but try and pull them back instead. Make changes to your work space if necessary: Your computer screen should be at eye level and your keyboard should be placed in a way that’ll allow your elbows to bend at a 90 degrees angle.