8 ways to take care of your back
Your back is an intricate matrix of bones, muscles, nerves, and tissue that keep your body balanced, erect and functioning properly. It’s also the number one site for chronic pain. But, it can be prevented or controlled.
“Keeping your back healthy means following steps that everyone should take toward overall health,” says James Sanfilippo, MD, Virtua orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in spine surgery. “And, new therapies and treatment options can help those who suffer from back pain return to active lifestyles.”
1. Ditch the stress and the smokes
Because smoking decreases oxygen levels in the body needed for healthy bones and muscles, it can lead to disc and spine problems. Stress amplifies all symptoms. Stress and tobacco management techniques may help alleviate back pain.
2. Get sleep support
While sleeping, your head, neck, and back should be in proper alignment. Make sure your pillow supports your head and neck.
3. Stand tall, sit up straight
You’ll look and feel more confident – and help your back – by practicing good posture. This means standing with your feet about shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, shoulders pulled up, and head centered over your shoulders with your chin up.
Sitting properly means keeping your feet flat on the floor; spine straight and supported against your chair; shoulders relaxed; and head upright, supported by the spine, not by the neck muscles.
4. Strenghthen you core
Studies show that strengthening core muscles – muscles in the mid- and lower-back and stomach area – helps prevent and relieve back pain. Activities such as moderate weight or resistance training, yoga, Pilates, swimming, walking, and other low-impact aerobic exercises help strengthen the muscles around the back and help improve posture and prevent injury.
5. Lose the pounds
Extra weight can cause back stress and strain. Talk to your doctor about your healthy weight. The more weight you lose, the better your back will feel.
6. Stretch out
Most bodily movements, like walking, picking up a telephone and looking both ways at an intersection, involve your back and neck. Regular, dedicated stretching throughout the day increases your mobility. And keeping your upper leg muscles limber helps reduce pressure on the lower spine.
7. Let your legs do the lifting
The old adage, “lift with your legs, not with your back” is timeless. A back belt can help improve your posture and lifting technique, but it will not enable you to lift more weight than you could without one. Proper lifting is essential for a healthy back.
8. Care for your feet
Back-healthy shoes are comfortable, supportive, and shockabsorbent (not hard-soled). Look for shoes that allow for good posture, and if you must wear high heels, wear them in moderation. Orthotics (insoles) may help to reduce back pain.