How To Prevent Back Pain – Part 1

To begin this article I thought about providing you with some staggering back pain statistics.  However, I think we all know how common back pain is and how debilitating it can be.  Almost everyone, at some point in their life, gets back pain, and quite often it can be debilitating to the point where people need time off work.  If it doesn’t debilitate the person, then more often than not it prevents them from doing something they love, like gardening or golf.  It can also get in the way of sleep and cause people to become extra cautious, limiting their daily activities because it is so easily aggravated.

If this sounds like you, you are not alone and there is help.  Please, keep reading as these tips are beneficial to anyone.  My hope is that people without back pain are reading this too and taking the necessary steps to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Before I begin, if you or someone you know, has been suffering with back pain for some time and are looking for help, it might be wise to seek the advice of a professional in your area.  Chiropractors, Physiotherapists and Massage Therapists are all here to help you if you are suffering.  If you are unsure about who to see for your back pain, I created a guide that can be found here to help you find the right practitioner.

Let’s begin…

Posture

Most people understand that posture is important.  We were all told to “SIT UP STRAIGHT”  when we were young.  However, not many understand its link to low back pain.  When people use their smart phones too much or are on the computer all day, they often experience neck and shoulder aches, which makes sense because hunching forward puts a huge strain on your neck joints and muscles.  But, it also puts a big strain on your low back joints and muscles.

You see, your spine has two large muscles that run down either side of it, from the base of your skull all the way down to your waist line.  These muscles keep our spines erect, or up right.  Your head, which weighs about 10 pounds sits right on top of your spine.  Picture a bowling ball being held up by long stick.  Now if you are holding the stick with the bowling ball balanced right on top, it’s not hard to hold on to it.  Now imagine that stick being tipped forward slightly, away from vertical.  As soon as this happens, the bowling ball all of a sudden feels much heavier because it is no longer sitting directly on top of the stick.

The same thing happens to your spine when you lean forward to send a text or type on your computer.  If you don’t hold your head up where it can sit on top of your spine, then your head all of a sudden weighs a lot more.  In order to counteract this weight, your spinal muscles have to work harder.  This places undue strain on your entire spine, including your low back muscles.

The easiest way to correct this, is to make sure your head is sitting on top of your spine.  You can check this by having someone look at you from the side.  If you head is sitting forward like figure 1,  then its position is placing strain on your spine and should be corrected.  Ideally, your head should sit on top of your spine and shoulders, like in figure 2.

Bad seated posture

Good posture demonstrarion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1: Bad Posture                                                                           Figure 2: Good Posture

Also notice in Figure 2 that when your buttock is not placed into the corner of the chair where the seat meets the back rest, your body has to hunch in order for you to rest your back on the chair.  This causes your low back to bend forward too and puts strain on your muscles and discs.  Quite often I will recommend to people with low back pain that they pay attention to how they are sitting because the constant strain from sitting improperly can aggravate their condition.

In order to prevent back pain, posture must be maintained and corrected regularly.  A conscious effort to sit up straight cued by a sticker or other object at your desk is the best way to achieve good posture.

Mattresses

We spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping.  If you do not have a supportive mattress, then you can easily develop back pain.

I get asked advice about which mattress is best all of the time.  This is difficult to answer, because everyone is different and personal preference also plays a factor in picking the best mattress that will get you the best night’s sleep possible.

What I always tell people is that if their mattress is more than 10 years old, it should be replaced.  Also, when you buy one, spend at least $1000, because a cheap mattress won’t give you the proper support you need.  These are the best tips when considering a new mattress, but it’s always a good idea to try them out and read reviews if you plan on buying one online.

If you are waking up sore and stiff or have unexplained back pain, check your mattress.  It could be the culprit.  Replacing your mattress when needed can also prevent you from having back pain in the first place.

Stress

More and more research and discovery has shown that stress has physical consequences on our bodies.  Muscles tense up when we are stressed and sometimes our back muscles carry this tension. When this happens chronically for a period of time, people can end up in pain and are unsure why.  Often, when asked, there was no injury, slip or fall that could’ve brought on their pain, but for some reason they are currently experiencing stress.

Stress can be caused by work, relationships, loss of a loved one or financial pressure.  Whatever might be causing stress, it will have negative consequences on your body if it lasts.

Of course we all want to live stress free and sometimes there are factors outside of our control that place us under stress.  But, in order to manage stress we should always be aware of our stress levels and not take too much on if we can help it.  Saying no is a good thing to practice, especially if you have enough on your plate already.  This is part of self care, which unfortunately for many people gets neglected when we are caught up in the business of life, trying to meet all the demands placed on us.

The best thing to do is regularly practice self care.  This ideally would involve, good sleep, regular exercise and eating nutritious food.  However, it can be as simple as just doing something for ourselves once per day, like reading, writing, meditating, painting or playing music.  These are all valid forms of self care because they take our minds away from what’s going on in front of us and allow us to unwind.

Not only does the practice of self care help prevent pain, it can also help keep our mental health in check.  This can keep us from developing symptoms of depression, overwhelm or breakdowns.

If stress has taken over your life, and has gotten out of control, there are many professionals who can help.  There is no shame in seeking counselling, especially if you are going through a rough time and feel like you cannot gain control over your life.  Brant Mental Health Solutions offers a safe non-judgmental environment for people to share their feelings and get help for stress related issues.

There is much more that can be said about stress, but it must be understood that it can be a cause of back pain.  If you can manage to keep it under control, back pain can be prevented.

I hope you found this article useful.  If you did, please feel free to share it with someone who might benefit from this information and stay tuned for part 2, where we will discuss three more ways to prevent back pain.