Back pain is the top reason Americans seek health care today? In fact, according to most orthopedic doctors, a whopping 80% of Americans will suffer back pain at least once in their life, and from this figure, one in four will experience back pain every three months. What’s more, back pain is not afflicted on 60 year-olds only, 18-year-olds can be just as affected, as they lead a more active lifestyle that may cause back injury as well. Thankfully, more often than not, back pain isn’t that serious and usually, Ibuprofen, ice and some bed rest will do the trick. Still, prevention is better than a cure. So, here are six essential life changes you need to make that will ensure you have a really stable spine.
1. Move around more
Start with the little things, such as taking phone calls standing up. Sitting puts three times the pressure on your disks as standing. To clearly explain this, physical therapists illustrate back pain as follows: Push one of your fingers back as far as is comfortable. Now hold it there for a minute. That ache is what happens when your spine stays in the wrong position for too long.
2. Stretch your hamstrings
Retired back surgeon in Wisconsin, Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., M.D., suffered 10 years of intermittent back pain. Now, he’s been painless for more than 15 years since he began stretching his hamstrings twice per day, morning and night. “If hamstrings are tight, it locks the pelvis in a position and doesn’t allow it to rotate – move back and forth,” he says. “All the motion of daily living goes through the bottom disks. If you get them loosened up, it reverses that process. We don’t see anyone for surgery who has nice loose hamstrings.”
3. Stay in shape—and don’t smoke
Staying in shape will allow your back and abdominal muscles to be in reasonable shape and get the oxygen they need to stay healthy. Smoking isn’t recommended as it may impede the blood flow your spine needs. Working on your cardiovascular system will increase the amount of oxygen that goes into your muscles, keeping them from bunching up or causing you pain. Make sure to work your back muscles directly as well. A strong back will not complain as much.
4. Maintain the natural inward curve of your lower back
If sitting, ensure that your office chair supports your lower back, or use a pillow for support. You can also use a pillow behind you when sitting on the couch, or in cars or planes. When picking up something heavy, it’s not just about bending your knees. You need to stick your butt out and keep your back in the correct neutral position, with the lower back curved.
5. Go biking
Opt for a hybrid bike of half mountain, half road. This will allow you to sit upright and maintain the neutral curve of your back. You will get in shape and build your glute muscles. As we said before, this will get more oxygen into these muscles and allow less pressure to be put directly on your back muscles, winning you a reprieve from pain.