Back pain is reported to be the most common cause of missed work, right after flu and colds. In fact, back pain is so common that many people consider it inevitable, especially with increasing age.
But it may be possible to avoid some types of back pain by better understanding its causes and avoiding or preventing them in the first place.
And while over-the-counter pain relief medications can help lessen back pain once it occurs, exercise, improved posture, and good furniture can strengthen and heal your back and even prevent back pain from occurring in the first place.
This article will guide you in both ways: how to avoid back pain and how to find back relief.
Back Pain Causes
The back is a powerful structure comprising bone, muscle, and elastic discs. This marvel of efficiency allows you to bend, twist, and carry weight. However, its flexibility makes it susceptible to injury and pain. Not surprisingly, back pain often results from neglect or other lifestyle factors such as:
* Bad posture – A normal adult spine resembles a double ‘S’. When you slouch, the pelvis and the stomach thrust forward, the knees bend, and the back muscles are strained. This strain can easily lead to back pain.
* Sedentary lifestyle and stress – Lack of exercise tends to weaken the muscles in the body. At the same time, stress can lead to muscle tension, causing the unprepared muscles to spasm.
* Weak abdominal muscles – Back pain is often related to weak stomach muscles, which can place added stress on the back.
* Obesity – Overweight people may find it difficult to maintain proper posture, and the burden of additional weight puts pressure on the back.
* High heels – They push the body’s center of gravity forward. To offset this, people tend to bend their knees and move their torsos forward. This can exaggerate the spine’s inward curve, leading to back pain.
People can also experience back pain as a result of specific health conditions:
* Spondylosis – Arthritis of the spine occurs due to degenerative spinal changes, and is often characterized by back pain.
* Spondylolisthesis – This occurs when one spinal vertebra slips forward on top of another one, causing back pain.
* Spinal stenosis – When the space around the spinal column and nerve roots is reduced, nerves are pinched or pressed, resulting in back pain. Arthritis and bone overgrowth trigger this condition.
* Herniated disc – One of the most common causes of back pain, this condition occurs when a spinal disc presses on a nerve. It’s also referred to as slipped disc.
* Sciatica – Sharp, shooting pain that radiates through the lower back or buttocks to the back of the leg when a herniated disc presses the sciatic nerve.
* Spinal infection – When this occurs, back pain is often accompanied by fever and tenderness.
Back Pain Relief Options
Not every type of back pain is a condition you have to put up with. In addition to medication and home therapies, there are a variety of complementary and alternative therapies that can provide back pain relief.
Bed rest may help relieve acute, temporary back pain. But this may not work for chronic back pain, which may require long-term treatment.
Here are just some of the methods you can try to get back pain relief:
* Heat and ice treatment – For lower back pain relief, use an ice pack first to sooth the sore muscles. You can use a cold compress several times a day for up to 20 minutes per treatment. A warm compress or a heating pad loosens the muscles and increases blood flow, which can provide some back pain relief.
* Chiropractic care – Some research on pain relief has shown that chiropractic manipulation may be as effective as pain relief medication for certain patients.
* Acupuncture – In this alternative medicine procedure, the practitioner inserts sterilized stainless steel needles at specific points on the body. This may stimulate the brain to release natural endorphins, which can provide some level of back pain relief.
* Electrical stimulation – Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) often works for acute back pain. In this procedure, weak electrical pulses sent to nerve pathways through specific points prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. This back pain relief procedure may be appropriate for those who prefer to avoid medication.
* Over-the-counter medication – Drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation and relieve back pain, while acetaminophen controls pain without addressing inflammation.
* Prescription medication – When over-the-counter drugs fail to provide pain relief, doctors may prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (other than aspirin or ibuprofen), a muscle relaxant, or other medication.
* Epidural injections – When other measures fail to relieve back pain, doctors may prescribe epidural injections of anti-inflammatory medication such as cortisone to provide pain relief.
Back Pain Don’ts
* Do not exercise while suffering from severe back pain.
* Do not sit for long periods when suffering from back pain. Sitting exerts more pressure on your nerves than standing or lying down. This can exacerbate back pain.
* Do not slouch or overarch your back, as this increases pressure on the lower back and may cause back pain to become more intense.
How To Avoid Back Pain
Many people who suffer from chronic back pain have found that a few lifestyle changes and healthy work habits can help them avoid recurrences of back pain:
* Exercise – Exercise not only helps to maintain proper weight, but also helps build and maintain strong muscles. However, if you already suffer from back pain, consult your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
* Good posture – A balanced posture allows the body to relax while maintaining an erect position. If you stand for long hours, avoid back pain by placing one foot on a stool or a box to avoid stressing the pelvis. While sitting, make sure that your lower back is supported and that your feet stay flat on the floor.
* Bend and lift properly – Improper bending is a common cause of back pain. When bending down, bend your knees, separate your feet about shoulder width apart, and keep your back straight. When lifting things, let your legs bear your weight, keep objects close to your body, and ask for help if the load is too heavy.
* Sleeping position – Sleep on your side, with your knees bent towards the chest. Place a pillow between the knees to reduce pressure on the back.
* Heel inserts – To reduce the risk of back pain, some doctors recommend heel inserts to alleviate stress on the lower back and provide shock absorption.
* Medium-firm mattresses – Sleep on a mattress that is firm enough to support your body but does not distort the body’s natural curves.
* Car seating position – Tilt your car seat back slightly, so that your knees are higher than your hips. Place the seat close enough to the wheel to let your arms bend.
Treating your back with respect is one key to avoiding back pain. However, if you already do have back pain, a variety of pain relief medications and treatments are available.
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