Published December 15, 2011
You are certainly not alone if you have a bad back. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), eight in 10 Americans will experience some kind of back pain over the course of their lifetime. Back pain can flare up after an accident or fall, but the pain can also kick in if you twist your body the wrong way or lift a heavy object. The pain can range in severity, and may be the result of a condition or disease like scoliosis or arthritis. Don’t let back pain get in the way of your life. Here are five lifestyle changes that can help you manage the pain:
Improve your posture: Your desk job and those hours you spend toiling away at the computer may be the source of your back aches. Sitting hunched over a keyboard puts stress on your back muscles. When you work at your desk, sit up straight and as far back in your chair as possible. Keep your feet flat on the ground. When you stand, make sure you put your shoulders back and keep your weight evenly balanced on both feet. Take note when you slouch and immediate readjust your posture. Check your reflection in a mirror if you can to get an idea of where you stand on the posture spectrum.
Lose weight: Maintain a healthy weight or strive to lose those extra pounds. Carrying excess weight, especially around your stomach, can shift your center of gravity and throw off your posture. Exercise and eat nutritious, balanced meals. Movement can help prevent further back injuries, so exercise on a regular basis. You can also throw in Pilates and yoga to stretch muscles and strengthen your core. Quit smoking. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), smoking increases your risk of osteoporosis and can slow your body’s healing process.
Wear proper shoes: Back pain probably means your stiletto-wearing days are over. Wear shoes with low heels. If you will be walking long distances, bring along supportive flats or other comfortable shoes. Look for pairs of shoes with good arch support.
Use hot and cold treatments: Alternate between ice and hot compresses on the aching areas. Ice reduces inflammation and swelling, while heat can relax the area. Never fall asleep with either an ice back or a heating pad on your body. You can also turn to topical pain-relieving creams, like Bengay, Icy Hot and Tiger Balm, for temporary relief.
Sleep right: Give your back as much support as you can while you sleep. Find a mattress that is not too firm but not too soft, either. Sleeping on your back or stomach strains your back. To counter this, back sleepers should place a pillow under their knees, and stomach sleepers can opt to put a pillow under the pelvis. Sleeping on your side is your best bet. You can bend your knees and maneuver then closer to your chest. In addition, placing a pillow between your knees can help support your back. The Mayo Clinic has a visual slideshow that demonstrates the different options.