Back pain seems to be a fact of life, but by taking care of your back can either prevent or significantly reduce the severity of an episode. Maintenance that you can practice falls into four major categories.
Eat well, drink plenty of water and rest – These are three common sense steps that we have all heard before regarding many different issues. If you eat well, the vitamins and minerals from the food will give your bones and muscles the nutrients needed to properly function and stay strong. Eating well will also help to keep you close to your body’s ideal weight, which means less pressure and stress on the back. Drinking several large glasses of water a day keeps everything hydrated. Invertebral disks will stay padded, joints well lubricated, and muscles supple. Resting (in a spine-friendly position) can give ligaments, muscles and joints time to recover from stress and overuse. Resting between heavy lifting, bending and twisting, and getting a good night’s sleep regularly is crucial to a healthy back.
Exercises and fitness – Keeping muscles strong enough to support the body’s weight is the main goal in back maintenance. Exercising and staying at an ideal weight helps ease the strain on the back, which takes a lot of abuse in a person’s lifetime. Some basics specifically concerning the back are:
- Warm up. Don’t shock your system by going from sitting to sprinting.
- Work the back and stomach muscles equally. The whole core is supporting the spine.
- Stretch. Exercise is great, but an easy stretch of the back and legs can really make a difference. Many people try yoga and Pilates.
- Keep your legs strong. Legs have large muscles that are meant to take a lot of weight. Keeping them toned can help ease the burden on the back.
Know how your body works and using it correctly – What is good posture? How does my spine work? Is my workplace set up in a way to aid the function of my back? These are questions that you should ask. Proper posture keeps the spine and neck aligned so that no undo strain is occurring anywhere along the spinal column. When standing or sitting correctly, the muscles and ligaments are supporting the vertebrae, which are stacked so that the spinal cord and nerves aren’t pinched. Think about good posture often. An ergonomically correct workstation or desk is imperative with the amount of time now spent spend at computers. Set up your desk so that your spine is receiving the least amount of pressure and stress possible and take frequent breaks to walk around or stretch. Reduce or alter the heavy lifting you do. If you do have to lift something, bend at the knees, keep your back straight and don’t strain.
Treat your body well – The better you are to your body, the better it is going to treat you. Shock-absorbing shoes reduce the amount of vertical impact the spine receives; wear them whenever possible. Make sure your mattress supports you properly and if it has a sway in it, just think about what it is doing to your back while you sleep. Pamper your back: there are professionals out there whose job it is to keep your back healthy. Chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists and acupuncturists all practice techniques to help the back. Sitting in a jaccuzi or hot tub is very relaxing and can help temporarily ease the pressure on the back.
A healthy spine allows us to be active and do the things we want to do on a daily basis. Taking care of it pays off in the long run.