Back pain is one of the most common and costly medical conditions of them all. It is estimated that 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives, eight percent of which will develop chronic back pain issues. And low back pain is the most common type of back pain. Up to 31 million people are believed to suffer from lower back pain alone at any given moment. Between health care costs, lost wages, and decreased productivity, back pain costs Americans nearly $100 billion every year. So yes, back pain is a very serious and prevalent issue.
BUT, luckily, there are some simple lifestyle choices you can make that can help ease or outright prevent low back pain. Here are eight tips you should follow to help keep your back healthy and strong.
1. Stay Active
If you already suffer from chronic low back pain, physical activity and exercise may almost seem counterproductive. But whether you do or do not currently have back pain, maintaining an active lifestyle is one of the most important things you can do to stave off the aches. A combination of low-impact exercises that consists of strengthening, stretching, and aerobics can go a long way toward a life with less pain.
Strengthening – Performing exercises with light weights or even just your body weight promotes stronger back muscles. A strong back will better support and stabilize your spine, which reduces the likelihood of straining your back while also improving your posture. But don’t forget to focus on other parts of your body as well, such as your core and leg muscles. Overall body strength allows you to better cope with daily activities with less risk of injury.
Stretching – A regular regimen of stretching helps relieve tension in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support your spine. Well-stretched muscles and tissues are less prone to injury and promote better joint mobility, which reduces the odds of strain. Learn more about the importance of stretching.
Aerobics – Aerobic exercise can help prevent back pain by increasing blood flow. This improved circulation delivers more oxygen and nutrients to the spine, which improves function and mobility while reducing the chances of future pain flareups.
It is recommended that you speak with your physician before starting an exercise program.
2. Eat A Nutritious Diet
That’s right, your dietary habits can definitely impact chronic pain. One of the most common causes of back pain, and pain in general, is inflammation (rapid swelling caused by your body’s immune response to injury or the detection of foreign material). Inflammation can aggravate nerves and other surrounding tissues, causing pain. Many different types of food are known to accelerate inflammation while other can help reduce it.
Eat Your Fruits and Veggies
Most fruits and vegetables have shown to be excellent anti-inflammation agents. Dark green vegetables like kale, broccoli, and spinach top the list of best foods for reducing inflammation, but you can also mix in a delicious combination of carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, cherries, berries, and pomegranate. For a complete meal, you can add in foods such as salmon, turkey, chicken, beans, almonds, walnuts. And don’t forget to season your meal with anti-inflammatory herbs like basil, cinnamon, garlic, onion, rosemary, and oregano. Lastly, feel free to treat yourself with a delightful glass of non-inflammatory red wine.
Avoid Nightshade Vegetables
We said MOST vegetables are good at preventing inflammation. But, there is a small subset of them that may actually increase inflammation in some individuals. They are called nightshade vegetables and they include tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant, and peppers. However, nightshade vegetables seem to affect people differently and overall, remain very healthy. Perform a test and try removing these foods from your diet for a couple weeks and see if your pain improves.
Limit Unhealthy Foods
This is an important part of any diet and it is no different when fighting chronic pain. The usual suspects of white bread, white pasta, sugary snacks, soft drinks, fried foods, and salty snacks can all cause inflammation. If you are able to cut these foods out of your diet altogether, more power to you! But at the very least, try to enjoy them in moderation.
3. Say No to Smoking
It is no secret that smoking has negative effects on your overall health. But smokers are also at higher risk of developing back pain and associated complications. Tobacco inhibits blood flow, which in turn impairs the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your bones and tissues, including those in the spine. This leaves your spine more vulnerable to damage and degeneration. To compound the problem, smoking has shown to inhibit the immune system and cause slower healing, which can make pain conditions more difficult to overcome.
If you currently smoke, consider taking steps toward quitting. It will go a long way toward managing or even preventing chronic back pain issues and improve your overall health and wellness.
4. Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting proper rest is vital to managing back pain. Research has shown that lack of sleep inhibits the brain’s painkilling response, which increases pain sensitivity. It does not take very large reduction in the amount of sleep you get to have a significant impact on your pain levels the following day.
So be sure you take steps to get adequate sleep.
- Choose a mattress and pillow that are comfortable and keep your head and spine aligned
- Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable temperature
- Give yourself three to four hours between your last meal of the day and bedtime, so you have time to digest
- Listen to relaxing music
- If you still have trouble falling asleep, talk to your healthcare provider about taking sleep-enhancing supplements
5. Stand up Straight
By practicing good posture, you are promoting a strong and healthy spine. When you slouch or stoop, your muscles and ligaments strain to keep you balanced which can lead to back pain.
Make an extra effort to stand tall and straight while standing or walking. If you work in an office setting or any other situation where you spend a lot of time sitting, investigate ergonomic chair options or a standing desk setup.
6. Drink Your H2O
Drinking more water throughout your day is a simple, preventative, and very important step to protect against developing back pain and reduce existing back pain. The human body is up to 60% water, and some of your most vital organs, like the brain, heart, and lungs, are all well over 70% water.
The relationship between water and back pain has to do with some other body parts that are very watery. The cushiony, shock-absorbing discs between your vertebrae are filled with a fluid that has a high water content. Your body’s many joints are also cushioned by synovial fluid, a thick substance with a high water content that protects your bones from damaging friction. If you do not consume an adequate amount of water, you start to become dehydrated. When this happens, your body goes into survival mode and reroutes that all important water to your vital organs, leaving your discs and joints high and dry. This sudden lack of fluid can reduce the effectiveness of your discs and synovial fluid, resulting in pain, stiffness, soreness, and occasionally physical deformity.
The average adult human loses two to three liters of water a day through basic bodily functions like breathing, sweating, urinating, and bowel movements. So, make sure you are recouping all that lost fluid by drinking adequate water every day. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:
- About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
- About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women.
Here are a couple tips to help ensure you are drinking enough water each day:
Drink two full glasses of water right away in the morning
This gets you off to a good start before your busy day has a chance to distract you from drinking water. Not only does this give your body a refreshing dose of hydration to start the day, it has a number of other potential benefits. Research suggests that starting your day with a good drink of water can promote weight loss, improved mood, enhanced mental function, healthier skin, and jump starting many bodily functions.
Now, there is such a thing as drinking too much water. It is referred to as water toxicity and can impair brain functioning. It takes a significant amount of water intake for this to happen, but nonetheless, just make sure you stick to the amount recommended by the experts. Lastly, you are unlikely to see much benefit if you ONLY drink water in the morning. Make sure you are staying hydrated throughout the day.
Which brings us to our second tip.
Carry a water bottle around with you.
Once we dive into our busy schedules at work or home, it can be easy to just neglect taking some time off to get a full glass of water. Having a full bottle of water with you at all times gives you the chance to take a drink anytime you have a moment, like on the commute to and from work or in between running errands. There is never a bad time to hydrate, so keep a steady supply of water with you and you should be just fine.
Low back pain can is a tough thing to live with. It can range from an annoying nuisance to being utterly debilitating. But if you follow these tips, you can single-handedly improve your chances of reducing or even preventing low back pain from getting in the way of your life.
If, despite your best efforts, you still end up with low back pain, talk to the experts at Twin Cities Pain Clinic. We offer a wide range of the most advanced and effective options for treating back pain and are standing by to help start you on the road back to a renewed life.
Call: (952) 841-2345