Some studies estimate that up to 80% of people in the United States of America will suffer some form of back pain in their lifetime (1). Anyone who has had back pain knows how debilitating it can be and how big an impact it can have on your life. There are a number of causes of back pain, but the pain is generally caused by either bones, muscles or nerves (2). However, there are some simple measures you can take to reduce the chances of developing back pain related to these tissues.
Eat Well And Exercise
The basis of preventing any health condition is eating a balanced diet and exercising sufficiently. A healthy diet provides nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can be used to produce healthy cells and tissues in the back and to maintain the cells that are already there. In fact, a deficiency in certain minerals may contribute to certain back pain conditions.
Eating healthily and exercising can assist with reducing the onset of back pain because it helps a person to control their weight, which puts less strain on the back muscles and the backbone (3). Certain exercises also help to strengthen back muscles, so that they can deal with the daily strain they encounter better than before. It important to pay attention to your core muscles too because they support the back muscles and their actions.
Use a balanced diet and healthy exercise program to reduce back pain. These are good tools to use because they provide you with the nutrients you need and help you control your weight, which contributes to reducing the onset of back pain.
Pay Attention To Your Posture
The posture is the position that someone holds their spine at while they are standing or sitting. The best posture is keeping your spine at a straight angle that is perpendicular to the ground. This generally involves stretching your spinal muscles and holding your shoulders back. It is also quite important not to let your head bow forward or overstretch backward either but it should rather be in line with the backbone. The reason this posture is good is because it prevents the bony discs in your spine from moving from their place and changing the structure of your spine. If this is allowed to happen, more strain is placed on the muscles around the spine, which can lead to back pain (4).
Stand or sit in an upright position as much as possible to maintain the shape of your spine and reduce the stress placed on your back muscles. Less stress placed on the back muscles reduces the chance of them developing any pain.
Change How You Sleep
It's quite surprising that a lot of people don't know about how the way they sleep can affect the health of their back muscles. Some of the common positions that people sleep in actually can harm the muscles in the back and cause back pain. For example, people who naturally sleep on their backs are unaware that a pillow should be placed underneath their knees to reduce the strain on the back muscles. When you sleep on your side, you should have a pillow between your knees. Lastly, those who sleep on their stomachs should place a pillow beneath their abdomen because this also relieves stress on the back - specifically the discs in the spine. The type of pillow that you use can also affect the forces on your back. Back sleepers should use memory foam, side sleepers should use firm pillows and stomach sleepers should use large body pillows (5).
When you sleep, it's a good idea to have a pillow between your knees, or under them, depending on how you sleep. Choose the right material for your pillow to provide you the best amount of support.
Regulate Stress Levels
Many people have observed the link between stress and back pain (6). There are number of theories as to how stress can cause back pain. The most common theory is that anxiety causes tension in the back muscles. The explanation is quite complex, but one of the contributing factors is probably activation of the part of the nervous system that responds to fight or flight. It makes sense why these muscles tense when a person needs to run away or stand their ground, because these muscles help with such things. When this happens consistently though, the back muscles go into spasm and become painful. Exercise helps to reduce stress, because it releases some brain chemicals called endorphins. Certain exercises like yoga also provide a mindfulness component that actually reduces thoughts that cause stress.
Consistent stress can definitely cause back pain because it causes your back muscles to tense up to the point where they become exhausted and spasmed. It's a great idea to do exercise, especially yoga to relieve the stress and improve your back muscle health.
Other Quick Tips
Now that the fundamental techniques have been discussed, there are some specific things certain people can focus on depending on their lifestyle. Women who wear very high heels and wear them often should consider cutting down on wearing those shoes because they also place strain on back muscles (7). Heavy handbags can also cause back strain. Handbags with long straps should be placed across the body on the opposite shoulder to distribute the weight evenly and the shoulders should be swapped every now and then. The same applies to laptop bags. If you use a briefcase you should swap hands periodically as well.
Most importantly, you should try to avoid lifting heavy objects, but if you have to, bend your knees to take some of the strain off of your back. Lifting heavy objects incorrectly is one of the most common causes for sudden onset back pain.
If you do happen to hurt yourself, it is best to seek medical attention sooner rather than later. Otherwise, following all of these tips can help to keep you out of the doctor's or physiotherapist's office and instead, help you to live your life to the fullest and pain free.