According to the American Chiropractic Association, 50% of all working Americans experience back pain symptoms each year. As much as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some point in their lives, and Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain—and that’s not taking into account total costs, just the more easily identified ones like doctor visits.
Back pain is a vague term that really includes various forms of discomfort: there is the persistent dull ache or the sudden sharp, stabbing pain, both having various causes. Sometimes back pain is a result of a sprain or fracture, while other times it is a symptom of a disease or medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, or spinal stenosis, (a narrowing of the spinal canal through which the spinal cord runs). Many people simply develop back pain in part because they’re overweight and lead a sedentary lifestyle.
If you’re reading this, chances are you or a loved one have been sidelined by a sore back and are looking for ways to alleviate it. Good news: most back pain does not require surgery and can be alleviated in just a few days to a few weeks. The 8 strategies I’m about to share with you are surprisingly effective at extinguishing back pain and keeping it from returning.
1. Sit up Straight
Your mother was right! It’s important to pay attention to your posture, and not just when you’re standing or walking, but equally important (if not more so) when sitting. Many people sit a good many hours of the day, and slouching in your chair can result in chronic back pain.
First of all, if you sit behind a desk all day long, you need to make sure you have a proper chair. The best chair to support your back is one with a straight back or low-back support. While seated, keep your knees a bit higher than your hips, do not sit with your legs stretched out in front of you for prolonged periods.
For those people who must stand for hours at a time, it’s important to keep your head up and stomach pulled in.
Proper posture will ensure your spine stays in alignment and your muscles don’t get sore from overcompensation.
2. Weight Loss
Carrying extra weight on your body negatively affects your health, particularly your back health. When your body is forced to carry extra pounds, especially in your midsection, back muscles become aggravated because you automatically shift your center of gravity. If you are more than 10-pounds overweight, it is recommended you make the necessary lifestyle changes and get the weight off.
Anytime our body experiences aches and pains, our natural inclination is to lay down and rest. The last thing we feel like doing or think we should do is exercise. While resting the back can be helpful for a day or two, regular physical activity helps to not only ease inflammation but muscle tension as well.
4. Reduce Stress
Stress is known to be a BIG factor when it comes to musculoskeletal pain, specifically, lower-back pain. Simple things like taking a short walk down the block, watching a funny television show or spending a little time with loved ones can do wonders for stress and your back pain. [Editor’s note: this is my favorite stress reducer: it only takes 10 minutes a day and is medically proven to help. Click Here to try it for yourself. ]
5. Watch How You Sleep
Back pain can stem from and be exacerbated by your sleeping position, so speak with your doctor or chiropractor about the right position for you. It is often suggested people sleep on their side with their knees pulled up slightly toward their chest and a pillow between their knees. If you’re one of those people who starts on your side but ends up rolling over onto your back, try putting one pillow under your knees and one under your lower back. Sleeping on your stomach should be avoided, as this can be quite difficult on your back.
6. Lift with Your Legs
We’ve heard this phrase so many times that is has become almost a joke. But back pain is no joke, and far too many injuries occur each year from improper lifting. Never bend over from the waist to lift heavy objects. Always bend your knees and squat, pulling in your stomach muscles for support. Finally, when lifting, do not twist your body and if you can, push heavy objects rather than lift them.
7. Avoid Wearing High Heels
The human body was never meant to walk on heels. Doing so shifts your center of gravity and strains your lower back. For daily dressing, stick to nothing higher than a one-inch heel. For those special occasions, when you feel it necessary to wear a higher heel, be sure to bring along a pair of low-heeled shoes so you can slip them on should your feet and back become uncomfortable.
8. Use a Proper Handbag or Briefcase
Spines can easily get out of alignment when we carry around heavy, awkward bags and briefcases. Be sure to buy and use bags that have wide, adjustable straps that are long enough to go over your head. Ideally, heavier bags should be worn like a messenger bag (like the ones bike messengers wear) that distribute weight evenly and keep your shoulders and back pain-free.
When carrying a heavy bag or case that does not have straps, be sure to switch hands frequently to avoid putting all of the stress on one side of your body. Also, every so often, go through your bag and case and get rid of anything you don’t absolutely need that is adding unnecessary weight.
There is another way to extinguish back pain and that is to improve the health of your gut. What do your gut and back have to do with one another? Plenty! When your gut’s microflora, that is the trillions of bacteria and microbes in your gastrointestinal tract, are out of whack, inflammation is the result.
Inflammation is the real cause of pain and disease. But the good news is, you can naturally heal your gut and eliminate the inflammation that may be causing your back pain. Ready to get your life back? Here’s what you need to know.