Americans are working harder than ever and it’s taking a toll on our back health. It’s not only those who have heavy lifting jobs who are feeling the pain; office workers who sit in chairs, type on computers, and answer phones the majority of the day are feeling the strain as well. Pain is the body’s way of telling us something is wrong. Some pain, like back pain, is especially difficult to deal with. Often times, there is no way to sit, stand, turn or lie that will alleviate back pain. We’ve compiled a few simple lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce your pain and start on the path to a healthy back.
One: Kick Stress to the Curb
Muscles tighten up when we are stressed. Necks get stiff, shoulders become rigid, and back muscles tense up. Recognizing stressful situations is an important step in reducing stress. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, try to focus on your breath. Often times, when we are stressed, we take shallow breaths. Being mindful to take slow, deep breaths can help to reduce the amount of stress you are feeling. If you are in a private area, close your eyes and count to ten as you take slow, deep breaths.
Being outdoors, especially in nature, has been shown to reduce stress. Go for a walk, eat your lunch outside, read a book in the grass, or simply spend a little time outside.
Two: Align Your Spine
Optimal spine alignment doesn’t just happen. We must be mindful of our posture while we are standing, sitting, and sleeping. For proper posture when standing, keep your shoulders back, chest lifted, arms hanging at anatomical rest, and neck and spine long. Gently draw in the abdominals to help support the natural curvature of your spine.
For proper alignment while sitting, sit in your chair with knees bent at a 90 degree angle, hips flush with the chair. Maintain a long, lengthened spine while sitting and keep your shoulders drawn back. Make sure to sit with good posture at home, at work, and in the car.
Your posture while you are sleeping is just as important as sitting or standing properly. It is best to lay in a neutral position, where your back is neither arched or flat. When sleeping on your side, place a pillow between your knees. When sleeping on your back, place a pillow beneath your knees. If at all possible, avoid sleeping on your stomach, which can flatten the normal curvature of the spine and promote back strain.
Three: Get up and move
Physical activity can have a profoundly positive impact on your back health. An ideal exercise routine would include stretching and mobility exercises, core strengthening exercises, strength training, and cardiovascular exercise. Yoga and Pilates are both great for stretching, mobility, and core strengthening. Strength training can be done with free weight, bands, exercise balls, and/or free weights. If you are new to strength training be sure to start slow. Cardiovascular exercise options are almost limitless and include activities such; walking, swimming, biking, running, hiking, and dancing. Ultimately, it is best for your exercise routine to include activities that you enjoy and that you will stick to.
Even finding small ways to incorporate movement into your day can be helpful for your low back. If you have a desk job, stand up at least every hour, and if you can get a few steps in every hour, even better. When going to the store, park as far as way as you can. Ride your bike to run errands that are close to home. Do a 60 second plank during commercial breaks when you are watching TV. Every little bit of movement helps!
If you have questions about any of these tips, or back pain in general Contact us to learn more.