Back pain takes various forms, sometimes it results from a sprain or arthritis, and sometimes it can be the result of trauma, such as a fall or a car accident. But most often back pain is the result of an everyday activity done incorrectly — activities as common as twisting to reach or lift an object, sitting at a computer in the same position for hours, bending over to vacuum, and carrying shopping bags. The good news is that it isn’t all that difficult to prevent back pain, simple self-help strategies such as these can be surprisingly effective to prevent back pain and keep it from returning.
Here are 12 simple but effective ways that help prevent back pain.
- Exercise. One of the most important things you can do to prevent back pain is to get up and get moving. If you aren’t in good shape, you’re more likely to hurt your back and feel pain when you do even simple movements, such as lifting your child from his crib. Exercise is important for overall health and should not be avoided. Low-impact activities such as swimming, walking, and bicycling can increase overall fitness without straining the low back. However, several studies have found that the wrong type of exercise such as high-impact activities may increase the chance of suffering back pain.
There are some exercises that help to prevent back pain:
- Abdominal crunches, when performed properly, strengthen abdominal muscles and may decrease tendency to suffer back pain.
- Stretching and strengthening exercises are helpful in alleviating tight back muscles and ease back pain.
- The pelvic tilt also helps alleviate tight back muscles.
- Eat right. Strong bones can help prevent osteoporosis. It’s one of the most common causes of back pain later in life, particularly for women. A healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, dairy products, and whole grains, or foods rich in calcium and vitamin D will keep the bones in your spine strong.
- Loss weight. Extra pounds, especially in your midsection, can make back pain worse by shifting your center of gravity and putting strain on your lower back. Staying within 10 pounds of your ideal weight may help control back pain.
- Sleep sideways. You don’t want to sleep flat on your back. The best position for sleeping is on your side. If you must sleep on your stomach, put a pillow under your lower abdomen to help take stress off your back. Having a supportive mattress and pillow for your head are vital as well.
- Maintain proper posture. People slouch over their computers and their telephones when they’re texting, and they don’t realize the damage they’re doing to their backs and the pain they could be causing. Be sure to work at an ergonomically correct workstation, both at the office and at home, and break up long periods in front of the computer with stretching exercises. If you practice good posture, you will maintain the natural curves of your back and help keep it strong.
- Straighten up. Good posture isn’t just a way to look more proper. It protects the intricate pieces of your spine to keep them healthy and functioning properly. Bad posture puts strain and stress on your back and can change the architecture of your spine. Avoid rounding your shoulders, slouching, or bending sideways when standing.
- Change your shoes. Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes to prevent back pain. They reduce the strain on your back while standing. Shoes with less than a 1-inch heel are the best bet for your back.
- Lighten your load. Improper or heavy lifting is a common cause of back pain, but it doesn’t only happen to people who lift heavy boxes on the job. Carrying a bulky laptop bag, suitcase, camera, or a load of groceries can also cause a strain on your back. Whenever possible, take some weight off your shoulders by carrying less, distributing the weight to both sides of your body, or shifting the weight from shoulder to shoulder. Consider using a rolling cart or bag with wheels for heavier loads like bags of groceries or boxes of files.
- Reduce stress. You probably don’t realize how much stress can impact your back health. Stress causes you to tense your muscles, and constant tension of this kind can cause back pain. Any activity that helps you reduce stress will help prevent back pain. Stress reduction activities can include yoga, meditation, biofeedback, deep breathing, tai chi, and guided imagery.
- Quit smoking. It’s well known that smoking raises your risk for heart disease and cancer, including lung and colon cancers, but most people don’t realize that smoking also can be a cause of persistent back pain. Research also shows smoking can make existing back pain worse. It’s not entirely clear how smoking affects back health, but one possibility is that it narrows blood vessels. Narrowed blood vessels result in less oxygen and nutrients reaching the spine and, in turn, it becomes more susceptible to injury and slower to heal.
- Stretch. Standing, sitting, or lying down in one place for an extended amount of time isn’t healthy for your back. Relieve the strain of the day whenever you can by getting up, walking around, and doing some simple stretches. This will help improve circulation to your back. It can also ease any strains or aches that occur due to inactivity.
- Consider a back brace. A well designed back brace can help you prevent back pain when you are lifting or exercising, and it also help to ease back pain by supporting your back and waist.
You can reduce your risk for back pain and prevent back pain with simple lifestyle changes. However, if you should experience back pain, don’t ignore it. It could be a sign of a more serious condition. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and what you should do to find and treat the cause.