If you’re suffering from back pain, you’re in good company. About 80% of Americans will experience back pain in their lifetimes. Luckily, there are daily habits we can develop to ease back pain and prevent it from getting worse.
Be Mindful of Your Body Positioning
If you experience chronic pain, the simple act of paying attention to your posture can ease the discomfort. Here’s how:
Be sure you keep a straight back with your feet on the floor—no slouching! You want a 90-degree angle with your hips higher than your knees. Use a cushion if you need to.
Keep your shoulders back (not slouched) and your feet shoulder-width apart. Stand up straight with your head level (not tilted in any direction). You want to bear your weight on the balls of your feet. If you stand for extended periods, shift your weight from foot to foot or from heels to toes.
The key here is to maintain the natural curve of your spine. If you tend to sleep on your side, try putting a pillow between your knees. If you’re a back sleeper, a pillow beneath your knees will help. If you’re a stomach sleeper, try to train yourself to sleep on your back or side. If that’s not possible, place a pillow under your pelvis.
When lifting a heavy object, keep your feet shoulder-width apart. As you bend your knees, keep your spine in a neutral position, and lift slowly. Hold the load close to your body, and don’t twist; pivot with your feet instead.
Start by adjusting your seat to lean back slightly, at about a 100- to 110-degree angle. Then adjust the part you sit on until your thighs are fully supported and your hips are higher than your knees. If you have lumbar support, use it. If not, place a cushion behind your back.
Check Your Phone Posture
Do you spend hours each day with your head thrust forward, looking down at your phone? This is a perfect setup for back and neck pain. Try to keep your head back, your ears aligned with your shoulders, and your phone held straight out from your body. An armchair can help with that.
If you use a landline at work, try using a headset. And never cradle your phone between your head and your shoulder to keep your hands free.
Wear Supportive Shoes
High heels are the worst thing you can wear if you have back pain (with flip-flops a close second), particularly if you’re on your feet a lot.
High heels alter your balance and force your hips and knees out of alignment, putting extra strain on the lower back. Whenever possible, wear good supportive shoes with arch support.
Watch the Weight in Your Handbag or Backpack
If you use a handbag or shoulder bag, don’t overload it. If you’re feeling back strain from it, it’s too heavy. Chances are you always carry it on the same side, which strains your neck and back muscles. In time, this could cause muscle weakness and more severe problems. Try alternating sides from day to day or throughout the day.
Consider using a backpack. Backpacks are better than bags for carrying heavy loads because they distribute the weight evenly throughout your back. But again, don’t overload it.
Diet can have a substantial impact on back pain. A poor diet can cause inflammation that can lead to pain. Your dietary habits could also cause digestion issues such as constipation, cramping, and gas. All of these things can cause you to feel pain in your back.
The best diet for pain from inflammation is one with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Include tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish.
In addition, Harvard Health recommends avoiding the following:
Eating a healthy diet is also critical for maintaining a healthy weight. Carrying excess weight, especially around the middle, is another preventable source of back pain.
Gentle stretching is an excellent way to reduce back pain and ease aching muscles. Make it a daily habit, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. Ask your therapist about stretching exercises that you can do at home.
If You’re a Smoker, Quit!
Many studies have shown that smokers are much more likely to have chronic pain issues. Quitting can decrease current pain and reduce the risk of it becoming chronic.
Our bodies aren't designed for our modern lifestyles. Many of us sit for too long and don’t get enough exercise. We spend hours each day hunched over computer screens, and our backs can pay a high price for it.
Creating an awareness habit is an easy and effective way to reduce that pain. Be attentive to what you ask of your body throughout your day and discover how much better you’ll feel.
You only have one back; be good to it.
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